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Full text of "The speeches of the Earl of Chatham"

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THE 



/// 



MODERN ORATOR. 



THE SPEECHES 



OF 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 



'^f' 




LONDON : 

AYLOTT k JONES, 8, PATERNOSTER ROW, 



AND ALIi BOOKSELEEBS. 



1845. 



¥ 



.Mi 

INDEX 

TO THE 

SPEECHES OF THE EAEL OF CHATHAM. 



Page 
On the Address of Congratulation to King George II. on the Marriage of the Prince 

of Wales, April 29th, 1736 1 

In Favour of a Reduction of the Land Forces, February 4th, 1738 3 

On the Spanish Convention, March 8th, 1738 5 

In opposition to a ** Bill for the encouragement and increase of Seamen, and for the 

better and speedier manning of his Majesty's Fleet," March 10th, 1740 8 

On the Address to the King for the removal of Sir Robert Walpole, February 

13th, 1741 12 

On the motion for a Committee to inquire into the conduct of the Government during 

the last ten years of Sir Robert Walpole's Administration, March 23rd, 1742. . . . 16 
On a clause in the Mutiny Bill for subjecting Officers on half-pay to Martial Law, 1748 23 

On the American Stamp Act, January 14th, 1765 24 

On the Address to the King on the opening of Parliament, January 9th, 1770 31 

On the Proceedings of the House of Commons with reference to the election of Mr 

Wilkes, as M. P. for Middlesex, January 9th, 1770 36 

On the Motion of the Marquis of Rockingham for appointing a day to take into con- 
sideration the state of the nation, January 22nd, 1770 43 

On the Exercise of the judicature of the House of Commons in matters of Election, 

February 2nd, 1770 49 

On a Motion for appointing a Committee to inquire into the Expenditure of the 

Civil List, March 16th, 1770 52 

On a Motion for production of Correspondence and Papers in consequence of the 

seizure of the Falkland Islands by Spain, November 22nd, 1770 55 

In opposition to a Bill for quartering Troops in America, May 27th, 1774 68 

On Moving an Address to the King to recall the Troops from Boston, January 20th, 

1775 71 

In support of an Amendment to the Address to the King, on his Majesty's speech 

on the opening of Parliament, on the 20th November, 1777 77 

In opposition to a Motion to adjourn the House till the 20th of January, 1778; — 

on the 11th December, 1777 85 

On the Motion of the Duke of Richmond, on the 7th of April, 1778, for an Address 

to the King, beseeching his Majesty to recognise the independence of America, 

by withdrawing his Troops, and to dismiss his Ministers 89 



ItAP 



^6-003 69 "^ 



INTRODUCTION. 



It is by no means uncommon to find writers on literature assign to the ora- 
torical productions of modern ages, a position very inferior to those of the 
ancient, and too many are apt to yield a ready assent to so degrading a classi- 
fication, without having previously fairly investigated the question. The 
real advantage possessed by the ancient over modern orations is, that the 
former have been diligently studied, and are well known, while very few 
persons, comparatively, have even read the splendid and imposing speeches 
of the great orators of their own country. But if a candid and impartial 
comparison were made between the far-famed productions of the orators 
of Greece and Rome, which have been handed down as the models of a truly 
elegant and forcible style, and those of many of the great men who have 
been at once the pride and ornament of the British parliament and bar, no 
lover of his country need dread the result. To be able properly to canvass 
the merits of the ancient and modern schools (so to speak), regard must be 
had to the state of society at the different periods. Many of the justly-famed 
speeches of Cicero, it must be confessed by his most ardent admirers, if de- 
livered to a modern audience, would be far from effective or persuasiA'e, which 
is the real aim of all oratory ; the ease and harmony of his well modulated 
sentences might gratify the ear for a time, but the pompous and egotistical 
style which he too frequently indulges in, would, in the present day, be re- 
jected as little short of mere declamation. The more nervous and forcible 



n INTKODirCTION. 

style of Demosthenes is far more adapted to an advanced state of society, 
and resembles more closely the modern style of public speaking, aiming, as 
it does, more to convince the mind than to please the ear. Constituted as 
modern assemblies usually are now, of persons of cultivated minds and re- 
fined tastes, it would be unreasonable to expect that our modern orators 
should adopt a style which has ceased to be effective, and rely more on 
ornament and a declamatory appeal to the passions, than strict sound sense 
and convincing argument ; but they have, notmthstanding, triumphantly 
shown to the world that they have not allowed the poetic genius of their 
minds to be cramped by the closeness of their reasoning, for while they have 
far excelled the great public speakers of ancient days in sound logical argu- 
ment, they have, at the same time, embodied it in beauty of language that 
has never been, and probably never will be, surpassed. Where can be found 
brighter examples of stern patriotic eloquence than in some of the orations 
of Lord Chatham ? whose wonderful powers of elocution the celebrated Irishb 
orator, Grattan, has thus beautifully recorded : — " His eloquence was an era 
in the senate, peculiar and spontaneous, familiarly expressing gigantic ideas 
and instinctive wisdom. Not like the torrent of Demosthenes or the splendid 
conflagration of TuUy — ^it resembled sometimes the thunder and sometimes 
the music of the spheres. Like Murray, he did not conduct the understand- 
ing through the painful subtilty of argumentation, nor was he, like Townsend, 
for ever on the rack of invention, but rather lightened upon the subject, and 
reached the point by the flashings of his mind, which, like those of the eye, 
were felt, but could not be followed." But Lord Chatham stands neither 
alone nor foremost — ^he is only one of the bright phalanx of the orators of 
the United Kingdom, who have bequeathed to their admiring country lasting 
monuments of native talent. Pitt, Fox, Sheridan, Burke, Grattan, Erskine, 
and others, too numerous to mention, but Avhose names will be remembered 
as long as history survives, swell the illustrious train, and have left lasting 
proofs that the superiority of ancient over modern elocution, has now, at 
least, ceased. 

That it may not be supposed that the Editors of this work have pre- 
simied to take up a position unwarranted by authority, they beg to refer to 
one instance of modern eloquence, out of many, which, according to the re- 



TNTROBTJCTION. Ul 

corded opinions of men whose authority on such a subject all are bound to 
admit, was never equalled by any of the ancients — namely, the truly cele- 
brated speech of Richard Brinsley Sheridan, in the year 1787, on the motion 
for the impeachment of Warren Hastings, on the third charge against him, 
and which is thus noticed in the history of the period : — " In this state of 
the proceeding, Mr Sheridan brought forward, on the 7th of February, the 
charge against the Begum princesses of Oude, and delivered that celebrated 
speech, whose effect upon its hearers has no parallel in the annals of ancient 
or modern eloquence. The subject was particularly favourable to a display 
of that kind of impassioned eloquence in which the orators of antiquity, 
when acting as public accusers, so much excelled ; and it was agreed on all 
hands, that never in the British senate, nor probably anywhere else, was a 
speech of this class delivered comparable to that of Sheridan on this occa- 
sion. For five hours and a half he kept the attention of the House fascinated 
by his eloquence, and when he sat down, the whole assembly, consisting of 
the members of both Houses of Parliament, besides an audience of distin- 
guished visitors, involuntarily joined in a tumult of applause. Mr Burke 
pronounced it to be the most astonishing effort of argument, eloquence, and 
wit united, of which there is any record or tradition. Mr Fox declared that 
all he had ever heard, all that he had ever read, when compared with it, 
dwindled into nothing, and vanished like vapour before the sun ; and even 
Mr Pitt acknowledged, that it surpassed all the eloquence of ancient or 
modern times, and possessed everything that genius or art could furnish to 
agitate and control the human mind." 

It cannot but be regretted that the study of the speeches of our great 
modern orators, which rank so high in a literary point of view, should have 
been hitherto so much neglected. The only reason that can be given for 
their being so seldom found in libraries is the exceedingly high price at which 
most of them are published, which places them beyond the reach of many who 
would otherwise possess them. To supply this defect, " The Modern Orator" 
is now issued at a price which will place it at the command of all the reading 
public, and will contain the finest speeches of the most distinguished 
orators of the United Kingdom, carefully selected ; including those of Lord 

Chatham, Burke, Pitt, Fox,^ Sheridan, Erskine, Grattan, Curran, Canning, 

b2 



IV INTRODUCTION. 

Wyndham, Huskisson, Brougham, Shell, &c., &c. ; with short explanatory 
notes. Of the intrinsic value of such a collection it is needless to speak ; 
but it is presumed that it will be also found an useful addition to the library 
as a book of reference. The Editors sincerely hope it may meet the approval 
of the Public, to whose liberal support they look with confidence ; but should 
they be doomed to be disappointed in their expectations, they will, at least, 
feel a consolation and an honest pride in having endeavoured, by their humble 
means, to elevate the literature of their country. 



London, January, 1846. 



THE MODERN ORATOR. 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 

"William Pitt was born in St James's, Westminster, the 15th November. 
1708 ; created Viscount Pynsent and Earl of Chatham, in July, 176G ; died 
the 11th May, 1778 ; and was interred in Westminster Abbey, where a 
public monument commemorates his fame. 

The speeches of Mr Pitt, delivered prior to the year 1760, in conse- 
quence of the then imperfect mode of reporting, do not support the high 
fame to which that great statesman is justly entitled ; they, however, fully 
display the exceeding candour, probity, and patriotism which always charac- 
terised him. 



The following was Mr Pitt's first speech in parliament, and was de- 
livered on the 29th April, 1736, in support of the motion of Mr Pulteney 
for an address of congratulation to his Majesty King George II., on the 
nuptials of his Royal Highness Frederick Prince of Wales, with the Princess 
of Saxe Gotha : — 
" Sir, 

" I am imable to offer anything that has not been said by my honour- 
able friend who made the motion, in a manner much more suitable to the 
dignity and importance of the subject. But I am really affected with the 
prospect of the blessings to be derived to my country from this so desirable 
and long-desired measure, the marriage of his Royal Highness the Prince of 
Wales ; I cannot forbear troubling you with a few words, to express my joy, 
and to mingle my humble offering, inconsiderable as it is, with this oblation 
of thanks and congratulation to his Majesty. 

" How great soever the joy of the public may be, and very great it cer- 
tainly is, in receiving this benefit from his Majesty, it must be inferior to 



2 THE MODEKN ORATOR. 

that high satisfaction which he himself enjoys in bestowing it ; and if I 
may be allowed to suppose, that to a royal mind anything can transcend the 
pleasure of gratifying the impatient wishes of a loyal people, it can only be 
the paternal delight of tenderly indulging the most dutiful application, and 
most humble request, of a submissive obedient son. I mention, Sir, his 
Royal Highness's having asked a marriage, because something is, in justice, 
due to him, for having asked what we are so strongly bound, by all the ties 
of duty and gratitude, to return his Majesty our most humble acknowledg- 
ments for having granted. 

" The marriage of a Prince of Wales, Sir, has at all times been a matter 
of the highest importance to the public welfare, to present and to future 
generations ; but at no time has it been a more important, a more dear con- 
sideration, than at this day : if a character, at once amiable and respectable, 
can embellish, and even dignify, the elevated rank of a Prince of Wales. 
Were it not a sort of presumption to follow so great a person through his 
hours of retirement, to view him in the milder light of domestic life, we 
should find him engaged in the noble exercise of humanity, benevolence, and 
of every social virtue. But, Sir, how pleasing, how captivating soever such 
a scene may be, yet, as it is a private one, I fear I should offend the delicacy 
of that virtue I so ardently desire to do justice to, should I offer it to the 
consideration of this House. But, Su', filial duty to his Royal parents, a gene- 
rous love of liberty, and a just reverence for the British constitution ; these 
are public virtues, and cannot escape the applause and benedictions of the 
public. They are virtues, Sir, which render his Royal Highness not only a 
noble ornament, but a firm support, if any could possibly be necessary, of 
that throne so greatly fiUed by his Royal father. 

"I have been led to say thus much of his Royal Highness's character, be- 
cause it is the consideration of that character which, above all things, en- 
forces the justice and goodness of his Majesty in the measure now before 
us ; a measure which the nation thought could never come too soon, because 
it brings with it the promise of an additional strength to the Protestant succes- 
sion in his Majesty's illustrious and royal house. The spirit of liberty dic- 
tated that succession. The same spirit now rejoices, in the prospect of its 
being perpetuated to latest posterity. It rejoices in the wise and happy 
choice which his Majesty has been pleased to make of a princess, so amiably 
distinguished in herself, so illustrious in the merit of her family, the glory 
of whose great ancestor it is, to have sacrificed himself to the noblest cause 
for which a prince can draw his sword, the cause of liberty and the pro- 
testant religion. Such, Sir, is the marriage, for which our most humble 
acknowledgments are due to his Majesty ; and may it afford the comfort 
of seeing the Royal family (numerous as I thank God it is) still growing 
and rising up in a third generation ! a family. Sir, which I most sincerely 
wish may be as immortal as those liberties and that constitution it came to 
maintain ; and, therefore, I am heartily for the motion." 

"^he motion was carried unanimously. 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 3 

Speech in favour of a reduction of the Land Forces, in reply to Sir Thomas 
Ijumley Sanderson, afterwards Earl of Scarborough, delivered February 4th, 
1738:— 

" Sm, 

" As to what the honourable gentleman has said, respecting those whom 
he calls placemen, I agree with him, that, if they were to be directed in their 
opinions by the places they held, they might unite, for the support of each 
other, against the common good of the nation ; but I hope none of them are 
under any such directions. I am sure the honourable gentleman himself is 
not, and, therefore, I am convinced he is not serious, when he talks of being 
surprised at any placeman's declaring for a reduction of our army, for, of all 
men, those who enjoy any places of profit under our government ought to be 
the most cautious of loading the public with any unnecessary tax or expense ; 
because, as the places they possess generally bring them in more than their 
share of our taxes can amount to, it may be properly said that, by consenting 
to any article of public expense, they lay a load upon others which they 
themselves bear no share of. 

" I must look upon myself as a placeman, as well as the honourable gentle- 
man who spoke last."^ I am. in the service of one of the branches of the 
royal family ,f and I think it my honour to be so ; but I should not think it 
if I were not as free to give my opinion upon any question that happens in 
this House as I was before I had any such place ; and I believe, from the 
behaviour of gentlemen upon this very occasion, it will appear that all those 
who are in the service with me are in the same state of freedom, because I 
beUeve they will, upon the question now before us, appear to be of different 
opinions. But there is another set of placemen, whose behaviour surprises 
me not a little, because, upon every question respecting public affairs, they 
are always unanimous ; and I confess it is to me a little astonishing that two 
or three hundred gentlemen should, by an unaccountable sort of unanimity, 
always agree in opinion upon the many different questions which occur 
annually. I am convinced this surprising unanimity does not proceed from 
any effect of the places they hold under the Crown ; for, if it did, a man's 
being possessed of any place under the Crown would, in such a case, I am 
sure, be an infallible reason for the people not to trust him with the preserva- 
tion of their liberties, or the disposal of their properties in Parliament. 

" Then, as to the Tories,| and suspected Jacobites, I am surprised to hear 
any comparison made between them and the fat man in the crowd. There 
are so few of either in the kingdom, that I am sure they can give no man an 
occasion for being afraid of them, and, therefore, there is not the least shadoAv 
of reason for saying they are the occasion of our being obliged to keep such 
a numerous standing army. 

* Sir Thomas L. Sanderson was treasurer to the Prince of "Wales. / / 
t Mr Pitt was groom of the bedchamber to the Prince of Wales. 
X It will be remembered that, after the flight of James II., the tories were in favour 
of the succession of his son, and the appointment of a regent during his minority, 

// 



4 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

"Oar large army may properly be compared to the fat man in the crowd ; 
for the keeping up of such an army is the first cause of our discontents, and 
those discontents new, we find, are made the chief pretence for keeping the 
army. Remove, therefore, the army, or but a considerable part of it, and the 
discontents complained of will cease. 

" I come now to the only argument the honourable gentleman made use of, 
which can admit a serious consideration ; and if our army were entirely, or but 
generally, composed of veterans, inured to the fatigues and the dangers of 
war, and such as had often ventured their lives against the enemies of their 
country, I confess the argument would have a great weight. But, considering 
the circumstances of our present army, I can hardly think my honourable friend 
was serious when he made use of such argument. As for the officers of the 
army, they are quite out of the question ; for, in case of a reduction, there is 
a handsome provision for every one of them. No man can doubt, nor would 
any man oppose, their being put upon half-pay ; and I must observe, that 
our half-pay is better, or as good, as full pay, I believe, in any other country 
in Europe ; for, in the method our army is now kept up, I could show, by 
calculation, that it costs the nation more than would maintain three times the 
number of men either in France or Germany. And, as for the soldiers, I 
believe it may be said of at least three-fourths of them, that they never went 
under any fatigue except that of a review, nor were ever exposed to any dan- 
ger, except in apprehending smugglers, or dispersing mobs ; therefore, I must 
think, they have no claim for any greater reward than the pay they have 
already received, nor should I think we were guilty of the least ingratitude 
if they were all turned adrift to-morrow morning. 

" But suppose, Sir, the soldiers of our army were all such as had served a 
campaign or two against a public enemy ; is it from thence to be inferred 
that they must for ever after live idly, and be maintained at the expense of 
their country, and that in such a manner as to be dangerous to the liberties 
of their country ? At this rate, if a man has but once ventured his life in the 
service of his country, he must for ever be not only a burthen, but a terror, to 
his country. This would be a sort of reward which I am sure no brave soldier 
would accept of, nor any honest one desire. That we should show a proper 
gratitude to those who have ventured their lives in the service of their coun- 
try, is what I shall readily acknowledge ; but this gratitude ought to be 
shown in such a way as not to be dangerous to our liberties, nor too burthen- 
some to the people ; and, therefore, when a war is at an end, if a soldier can 
provide for himself, either by his labour, or by his o^vn private fortune, he 
ought not to expect, and, if he is not of a mercenary disposition, he will 
scorn to receive, any other rewards than those which consist in the peculiar 
honour and privileges which may and ought to be conferred upon him. 

" That we ought to show a proper gratitude to every man who has ventured 
his life in the cause of his country, is what, I am sure, no gentleman will 
deny. Yet, as the laws now stand, an old officer, who has often ventured 
his life, and often spilt his blood, in the service of his country, may be dis- 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 



missed, and reduced, perhaps, to a starving condition, at the arbitrary will 
and pleasure, perhaps at the whim, of a minister ;'^* so that by the present 
establishment of the army, the reward of a soldier seems not to depend upon 
the services done to his country, but upon the services he does to those who 
happen to be ministers at the time. Must not this be allowed to be a de- 
fect in the present establishment ? And yet when a law was proposed for 
supplying this defect, we may remember what reception it met with, even 
from those who now insist so highly upon the gratitude we ought to show 
the gentlemen of the army." 



Ever since the treaty of Seville, in 1729, the British merchants had been 
much harassed and annoyed by the Spaniards in America, who, under the 
pretence of searching for contraband goods, boarded British ships with the 
greatest violence, and in some cases actually confiscated them. Sir Robert 
Walpole, then prime minister, took no measures to assert the honour of the 
country, feeling that a war would occasion him the loss of office, by the ex- 
penditure of treasure which he then employed to maintain himself in power. 

In the speech from the throne, on the 1st February, 1738, the King in- 
formed the Parliament that a convention had been concluded between him and 
the King of Spain ; and that reparation was to be made by the latter for the 
losses sustained by British subjects ; and that plenipotentiaries had been 
appointed for settling all matters in dispute. This was the famous conven- 
tion concluded at Pardo on the 14th January, 1738 — on the 8th March, 1738, 
the day appointed for taking the convention into consideration in the House 
of Commons, 400 members took their seats by eight o'clock in the morning, 
when Mr Horace Walpole, in favour of ministers, moved that an address of 
approbation be presented to his Majesty, which was seconded by Mr Camp- 
bell, upon which Mr Pitt, " with an energy of argument and diction (as the 
historian Smollett writes) peculiar to himself, declaimed against the conven- 
tion," in a speech of which the following is the only report that has been 
preserved : — 
"Sir, 

*' I can by no means think, that the complicated question now before 
us is the proper, the direct manner of taking the sense of this committee. 
We have here the soft name of an humble address to the Crown proposed, 
and for no other end but to lead gentlemen into an approbation of the con- 
vention. But is this that full, deliberate examination which we were with 
defiance called upon to give ? Is this cursory blended disquisition of matters, 
of such variety and extent, all we owe to ourselves and our country ? ^^Hien 
trade is at stake, it is your last entrenchment ; you must defend it, or perish ; 
and whatever is to decide, that deserves the most distinct consideration, and 
the most direct, undisguised sense of Parliament. But how are we now 
proceeding ? Upon an artificial, ministerial question — here is all the con- 

* Sir Robert Walpole, irritated by the opposition of Mr Pitt, had deprived him of his 
cometcy, from caprice, in 1736. 



6 THE MODERN ORATOE. 

fidcnce, here is the conscious sense of the greatest service that ever was 
done to this country ; to be complicating questions, to be lumping sanction 
and approbation like a commissary's account ; to be covering and taking 
sanctuary in the royal name, instead of meeting openly, and standing fairly, 
the direct judgment and sentence of parliament upon the several articles of 
this convention. 

" You have been moved to vote an humble address of thanks to his Majesty, 
for a measure which (I Avill appeal to gentlemen's conversation in the world) 
is odious throughout the kingdom. Such thanks are only due to the fatal 
influence that framed it, as are due for that low, unallied condition abroad, 
which is now made a plea for this convention. To what are gentlemen 
reduced in support of it? First, try a little to defend it upon its own merits; 
if that is not tenable, throw out general terrors — the house of Bourbon is 
united — who knows the consequence of a war? Sir, Spain knows the con- 
sequence of a war in America; whoever gains, it must prove fatal to her; 
she knows it, and must therefore avoid it ; but she knows England does not 
dare to make it ; and what is a delay, which is all this magnified convention 
is sometimes called, to produce ? Can it produce such conjunctures as those 
you lost, while you were giving kingdoms to Spain, and all to bring her 
back again to that great branch of the house of Bourbon which is now 
thrown out to you with so much terror ? If this union be formidable, are 
we to delay only till it becomes more formidable, by being carried further 
into execution, and more strongly cemented ? But be it what it will, is this 
any longer a nation, or what is an English parliament, if, with more ships in 
your harbours than in all the navies of Europe, with above two millions of 
people in your American colonies, you will bear to hear of the expediency of 
receiving from Spam an insecure, unsatisfactory, dishonourable convention ? 
Sir, I call it no more than it has been proved in this debate ; it carries 
fallacy, or downright subjection, in almost every line. It has been laid open 
and exposed in so many strong and glaring lights, that I can pretend to add 
nothing to the conviction and indignation it has raised. 

" Su', as to the great national objection — the searching your ships — that 
favourite word, as it was called, is not omitted, indeed, in the preamble to 
the convention, but it stands there as the reproach of the whole — as the 
strongest evidence of the fatal submission that follows. On the part of 
Spain, an usurpation, an inhuman tyranny, claimed and exercised over the 
American seas ; on the part of England, an undoubted right, by treaties, and 
from God and nature, declared and asserted in the resolutions of parliament, 
are referred to the discussion of plenipotentiaries, upon one and the same 
equal foot. Sir, I say this undoubted right is to be discussed and regulated. 
And if to regulate be to prescribe rules (as in all construction it is), this 
right is, by the express words of this convention, to be given up and sacrificed ; 
for it must cease to be anything from the moment it is submitted to limits. 

" The court of Spain has plainly told you (as appears by papers upon the 
table) you shall steer a due course ; you shall navigate by a line to and firom 




THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 7 

your plantations in America ; if you draw near to her coasts (though from 
the circumstances of that navigation you are under an unavoidable necessity 
of doing it) you shall be seized and confiscated. If, then, upon these terms 
only she has consented to refer, what becomes at once of all the security we 
are flattered with in consequence of this reference ? Plenipotentiaries are to 
regulate finally the respective pretensions of the two crowns with regard to 
trade and navigation in America ; but does a man in Spain reason that these 
pretensions must be regulated to the satisfaction and honour of England ? 
No, Sir, they conclude, and with reason, from the high spirit of their admin- 
istration, from the superiority with which they have so long treated you, 
that this reference must end, as it has begun, to their honour and advantage. 

" But gentlemen say, the treaties subsisting are to be the measure of this 
regulation. Sir, as to treaties, I will take part of the words of Sir William 
Temple, quoted by the honourable gentleman near me ; it is vain to negotiate 
and make treaties, if there is not dignity and vigour to enforce the observance 
of them ; for under the misconstruction and misrepresentation of these very 
treaties subsisting, this intolerable grievance has arisen ; it has been growing 
upon you, treaty after treaty, through twenty years of negotiation, and even 
under the discussion of commissaries, to whom it was referred. You have 
heard from Captain Vaughan, at your bar,* at what time these injuries and 
indignities were continued. As a kind of explanatory comment upon the 
convention Spain has thought fit to grant you, as another insolent protest, 
under the validity and force of which she has suffered this convention to be pro- 
ceeded upon. We'll treat with you, but we'll search and take your ships ; we'll 
sign a convention, but we'll keep your subjects prisoners, prisoners in Old 
Spain ; the West Indies are remote ; Europe shall be witness how we use you. 

" As to the inference of an admission of our right not to be searched, dra^vn 
from a reparation made for ships unduly seized and confiscated, I think that 
argument is very inconclusive. The right claimed by Spain to search our 
ships is one thing, and the excesses admitted to have been committed in con- 
sequence of this pretended right, is another; but surely, sir, reasoning from 
inferences and implication only, is below the dignity of your proceedings, 
upon a right of this vast importance. What this reparation is, what sort of 
composition for your losses, forced upon you by Spain, in an instance that 
has come to Hght, where your own commissaries could not in conscience 
decide against your claim, has fully appeared upon examination ; and, as for 
the payment of the sum stipulated (all but seven and twenty thousand pounds, 
and that, too, subject to a drawback), it is evidently a fallacious nominal pay- 
ment only. I will not attempt to enter into the detail of a dark, confused, 
and scarcely intelligible account ;f I will only beg leave to conclude with one 

* The House of Commons, in a grand committee, in 1737, had heard counsel for the 
merchants, and received evidence at the bar, on the subject of the Spanish depr6dations. 

t Mr Smollett relates, that Mr Gage, one of the most keen- spirited and sarcastic 
members in the House, stated the account thus: — "The losses sustained by Spanish 
depredations amounted to £340,000 ; the Commissary, by a stroke of his pen, reduced 



8 THE MODERX OKATOR. 

word upon it, in the light of a submission, as well as of an adequate repara- 
tion. Spain stipulates to pay to the crown of England ninety-five thousand 
pounds ; by a preliminary protest of the King of Spain, the South Sea Com- 
pany is at once to pay sixty-eight thousand of it : if they refuse, Spain, I 
admit, is still to pay the ninety-five thousand pounds — but how does it 
stand then ? The Assiento contract is to be suspended ; you are to 
purchase this sum at the price of an exclusive trade, pursuant to a 
national treaty, and an immense debt of God knows how many hundred 
thousand pounds due from Spain to the South Sea Company. Here, Sir, is 
the submission of Spain, by the payment of a stipulated sum ; a tax laid 
upon subjects of England, under the severest penalties, with the reci- 
procal accord of an English minister, as a preliminary that the convention 
may be signed ; a condition imposed by Spain in the most absolute, imperious 
manner, and received by the ministers of England in the most tame and 
abject. Can any verbal distinctions, any evasions whatever, possibly explain 
away this public infamy ? To whom would we disguise it ? To ourselves 
and to the nation. I wish we could hide it irom the eyes of every court in 
Europe. They see Spain has talked to you like your master; they see this 
arbitrary fundamental condition, and it must stand with distinction, with a 
pre-eminence of shame, as a part even of this convention. 

" This convention, Sir, I think from my soul, is nothing but a stipulation for 
national ignominy ; an illusory expedient, to baffle the resentment of the 
nation ; a truce without a suspension of hostilities on the part of Spain ; on 
the part of England a suspension, as to Georgia, of the first law of nature, 
self-preservation and self-defence — a surrender of the rights and trade of Eng- 
land to the mercy of plenipotentiaries, and in this infinitely highest and 
sacred point, future security, not only inadequate, but directly repugnant to 
the resolutions of Parliament, and the gracious promise from the throne. The 
complaints of your despairing merchants, the voice of England has con- 
demned it. Be the guilt of it upon the head of the adviser. God forbid that 
this committee should share the guilt by approving it!" 

The address was, however, carried by a small majority. 



The following speech was made on the 10th of March, 1740, in opposition 

this demand to £200,000 ; then £45,000 were struck oiFfor prompt payment; he next 
allotted £60,000 as the remaining part of a debt pretended to be due to Spain for the 
destruction of her fleet by Sir George Byng, though it appeared, by the instructions on 
the table, that Spain had been already amply satisfied on that head ; these reduntions 
reduced the balance to £95,000, but the King of Spain insisted on the South Sea Company 
paying immediately the sum of £68,000, as a debt due to him on one head of accounts, 
though in other articles his CathoKc Majesty was indebted to the company a million 
over and above the demand ; the remainder to be paid by Spain did not exceed £27,000, 
from which she insisted upon deducting whatever might have already been given in 
satisfaction for any of the British ships that had been taken ; and on being allowed the 
value of the St Theresa, a Spanish ship, which had been seized in the port of Dublin." 



THE BARL OF CHATHAM. 9 

to a bill brought in by ministers, intituled, " A Bill for the Encouragement 
and Increase of Seamen, and for the better and speedier manning of his 
Majesty's Fleet." The object of the bill (similar to one proposed and rejected 
in the former session of parliament) was to give power to justices of the peace, 
to grant warrants to constables and headboroughs, to search, by night and day, 
for all seafaring men in their districts ; and to break open doors, in case of 
resistance, and seize men for service in the navy, 
« Sir, 

" It is common for those to have the greatest regard to their own inte- 
rest, who discover the least for that of others. I do not, therefore, despair of 
recalling the advocates of this bill from the prosecution of their favourite 
measures by arguments of greater efficacy than those which are pretended to 
be founded on reason and justice. 

" Nothing is more evident, than that some degree of reputation is absolutely 
necessary to men who have any concern in the administration of a govern- 
ment like ours ; they must either secure the fidelity of their adherents, by 
the assistance of wisdom or of virtue ; their enemies must either be awed by 
their honesty, or terrified by their cunning. Mere artless bribery will never 
gain a sufficient majority to set them entirely free from apprehensions of cen- 
sure. To different tempers, different motives must be applied. Some, who 
place their felicity in being accounted wise, are in very little care to preserve 
the character of honesty ; others may be persuaded to join in measures 
which they easily discover to be weak and ill-concerted, because they are 
convinced that the authors of them are not corrupt, but mistaken, and are 
unwilling that any man should be punished for natural defects or casual 
ignorance. 

" I cannot say which of these motives influence the advocates for the bill 
before us ; a bill in which such cruelties are proposed, as are yet unknown 
among the most savage nations ; such as slavery has not yet borne, nor tyranny 
invented ; such as cannot be heard without resentment, nor thought of with- 
out horror. 

" It is, perhaps, not unfortunate that one more expedient has been added, 
rather ridiculous than shocking, and that these tyrants of administration, who 
amuse themselves with oppressing their fellow-subjects, who add, without re- 
luctance, one hardship to another, invade the liberty of those whom they 
have already overborne with taxes — ^first plunder, and then imprison ; who 
take all opportunities of heightening the public distresses, and make the 
miseries of war the instruments of new oppressions ; are too ignorant to be 
formidable, and owe their power, not to their abilities, but to casual pros- 
perity, or to the influence of money. 

" The other clauses of this bill, complicated at once with cruelty and folly, 
have been treated with becoming indignation ; but this may be considered 
wdth less ardour and resentment, and fewer emotions of zeal ; because, 
though not perhaps equally iniquitous, it will do no harm ; for a law that 
can never be executed can never be felt. 



"tO THE MODERN ORATOH. 

" That it will consume the manufacture of paper, and swell the book of 
statutes, is all the good or hurt that can be hoped or feared from a law like 
this ; a law which fixes what is in its own nature mutable, which prescribes 
rules to the seasons and limits to the wind. 

" I am too well acquainted, Sir, ^vith the disposition of its two chief sup- 
porters, to mention the contempt mth which this law will be treated by pos- 
terity ; for they have already shown abundantly their disregard of succeeding 
generations ; but I will remind them, that they are now venturing their whole 
interest at once, and hope they will recollect, before it is too late, that those 
who believe them to intend the happiness of their country, will never be con- 
firmed in then- opinion by open cruelty and notorious oppression: and that 
those who have only their own interest in view, will be afraid of adhering to 
those leaders, however old and practised in expedients, however strengthened 
by con-uption or elated with power, who have no reason to hope for success 
from either their virtue or abilities." 

[On Mr Horace Walpole, in reply to this speech, having sarcastically ob- 
served on the youth and inexperience of Mr Pitt, and accused him of "furi- 
ous declamation," " lofty periods," " theatrical emotions," &c., Mr Pitt again 
addressed the House, as follows : — ] 

" Sir, 

" The atrocious crime of being a young man, which the honourable 
gentleman has with such spirit and decency charged upon me, I shall 
neither attempt to palliate nor deny, but content myself with wishing that 
I may be one of those whose follies may cease mth their youth, and not of 
that number who are ignorant in spite of experience. 

*' "Whether youth can be imputed to any man as a reproach, I v/ill not 
assume the province of determining. But surely age may become justly 
contemptible, if the opportunities which it brings have passed away without 
improvement, and \ice appears to prevail when the passions have subsided. 
The wretch that, after having seen the consequences of a thousand errors, 
continues still to blimder, and whose age has only added obstinacy to 
stupidity, is surely the object of either abhorrence or contempt, and deserves 
not that his grey head should secure him from insults. 

" Much more is he to be abhorred, who, as he has advanced in age, has re- 
ceded from virtue, and becomes more wicked with less temptation ; who 
prostitutes himself for money which he cannot enjoy, and spends the remains 
of his life in the ruin of his country. 

" But youth is not my only crime ; I have been accused of acting a theg-tri- 
cal part. A theatrical part may either imply some peculiarities of gesture, 
or a dissimulation of my real sentiments, and an adoption of the opinions and 
language of another man. 

" In the first sense, the charge is too trifling to be confuted, and deserves 
only to be mentioned, that it may be despised. I am at liberty, like every 
other man, to use my own language ; and though I may, perhaps, have 




THE EA.KL OF CHATHAM. 11 

some ambition, yet, to please this gentleman, I shall not lay myself under 
any restraint, nor very solicitously copy his diction, or his mien, however 
matured by age, or modelled by experience. If any man shall, by charging 
me with theatrical behaviour, imply that I utter any sentiments but my own, 
I shall treat him as a calumniator and a villain ; nor shall any protection 
shelter him from the treatment which he deserves. I shall, on such an 
occasion, without scruple trample upon all those forms with which wealth 
and dignity entrench themselves, nor shall anything but age restrain my 
resentment ; age, which always brings one privilege, that of being inso- 
lent and supercilious without punishment. 

" But mth regard to those whom I have offended, I am of opinion, that if I 
had acted a borrowed part, I should have avoided their censure ; the heat 
that offended them is the ardour of conviction, and that zeal for the service 
of my counti-y which neither hope nor fear shall influence me to suppress. 
I will not sit unconcerned while my liberty is invaded, nor look in silence 
upon public robbery. I mil exert my endeavours, at whatever hazard, to 
repel the aggressor, and drag the thief to justice, whoever may protect them 
in their villany, and whoever may partake of their plunder. And if the 
honourable gentleman" 

[A member here interposed by calling the honourable gentleman to order ; 
but proceeded in so harsh a tone, and so far outstepped the bounds of mo - 
deration, as to induce Mr Pitt to express his opinion of such conduct in 
the foUo^ving manner : — ] 

" If this be to preserve order, there is no danger of indecency from the most 
licentious tongue ; for what calumny can be more atrocious, or what reproach 
more severe, than that of speaking without any regard to truth ? Order may 
sometimes be broken by passion or inadvertency, but will hardly be re-esta- 
blished by a monitor like this, who cannot govern his own passion whilst he 
is restraining the impetuosity of others. 

" Happy would it be for mankind, if every one knew his own province ; we 
should not then see the same man at once a criminal and a judge ; nor would 
this gentleman assume the right of dictating to others what he has not 
learned himself. 

" That I may return, in some degree, the favoui* which he intends me, I will 
advise him never hereafter to exert himself on the subject of order; but 
whenever he finds himself inclined to speak on such occasions, to remember 
how he has now succeeded, and condemn in silence what his censures will 
never perform." 

The bill was passed in a modified form. 



In the year 1740, Sir Robert Walpole having become exceedingly un- 
popular throughout the country, the opposition party endeavoured to remove 
him from office ; and accordingly (due notice having been previously given 



12 I'HE MODERN OExVTOK. 

to the minister), Mr Sandys (afterwards Lord Sandys), on the 13th February, 
1741, after setting forth the misconduct of ministers, concluded his speech 
by moving, " That an address be presented to the King, to remove Sir 
Robert Walpole from his presence and councils for ever.'' 

In support of this motion Mr Pitt made the following speech : — 

« SiK, 

" As it has been observed, that those who have formerly approved the 
measures of the gentlemen into whose conduct we are now inquiring, can- 
not be expected to disavow their former opinions unless new arguments are 
produced of greater force than those which have formerly been offered ; so 
the same steadiness must be expected in those who have opposed them, 
imless they can now hear them better defended. 

" It is an established maxim, Sir, that as time is the test of opinions, false- 
hood grows every day weaker, and truth gains upon mankind. This is most 
eminently just in political assertions, which often respect future events, and 
the remote consequences of transactions ; and therefore never fails to be, by 
time, incontestibly verified, or undeniably combated. On many occasions 
it is impossible to determine the expediency of measures otherwise than by 
conjecture ; because almost every step that can be taken, may have a ten- 
dency to a good as well as to a bad end ; and as he who proposes, and he 
who promotes, may conceal their intentions till they are ripened into execu- 
tion, time only can discover the motives of their demands and the principles 
of their conduct. 

*' For this reason it may easily be expected that bad measures will be con- 
demned by men of integrity, when their consequences are fully discovered ; 
though, when they were proposed, they might, by plausible declarations and 
specious appearances, obtain their approbation and applause. Those, whose 
purity of intention and simplicity of morals exposed them to credulity and 
implicit confidence, must resent the arts by which they Avere deluded into a 
concurrence with projects detrimental to their country, but of which the con- 
sequences were artfully concealed from them, or the real intention steadily 
denied. 

" "With regard to those gentlemen whose neglect of political studies has not 
qualified them to judge of the questions when they were first debated ; and 
who, giving their suffrages, were not so much directed by their own convic- 
tion as by the authority of men whose experience and knowledge they knew 
to be great, and whose integrity they had hitherto found no reason to dis- 
trust ; it may be naturally expected that, when they see those measures 
which were recommended, as necessary to peace and happiness, productive 
only of confusion, oppression, and distress, they should acknowledge their 
error, and forsake their guides, Avhom they must discover to have been 
either ignorant or treacherous ; and, by an open recantation of their former 
decisions, endeavour to repair the calamities which they have contributed to 
bring on their country. 

" The exteni and complication of political questions is such, that no man can 




THE EAEL OF CHATHAM. 13 

justly be ashamed of having been sometimes mistaken in his determinations ; 
and the propensity of the human mind to confidence and friendship is so 
great, that every man, however cautious, however sagacious, or however ex- 
perienced, is exposed sometimes to the artifices of interest and the delusions 
of hypocrisy ; but it is the duty, and ought to be the honour, of every man to 
own his mistake whenever he discovers it, and to warn others against those 
frauds which have been too successfully practised upon himself. 

" I am, therefore, inclined to hope, that every man will not be equally pre- 
determined in the present debate, and that, as I shall be ready to declare my 
approbation of integrity and wisdom, though they should be found where I 
have long suspected ignorance und corruption; as others will, with equal 
justice, censure wickedness and error, though they should have been de- 
tected in that person whom they have been long taught to reverence as 
the oracle of knowledge and the pattern of virtue. 

" In political debates, time always produces new lights ; time can, in these 
inquiries, never be neutral, but must always acquit or condemn. Time, in- 
deed, may not always produce new arguments against bad conduct, because 
all its consequences might be originally foreseen and exposed ; but it must 
always confirm them, and ripen conjectures into certainty. Though it should, 
therefore, be truly asserted, that nothing is urged in this debate which was 
not before mentioned and rejected, it will not prove that because the argu- 
ments are the same, they ought to produce the same effect ; because what 
was then only foretold, has now been seen and felt, and what was then but 
believed is now known. 

" But if time has produced no vindication of those measures which were sus- 
pected of imprudence or of treachery, it must be at length acknowledged 
that those suspicions were just, and that what ought then to have been 
rejected, ought now to be punished. 

" This is, for the most part, the state of the question. Those measures 
which were once defended by sophistical reasoning, or palliated by warm 
declamations of sincerity and disinterested zeal for the public happiness, are 
found to be such as they were represented by those who opposed them. It 
is now discovered that the treaty of Hanover was calculated only for the ad- 
vancement of the House of Bourbon ;'^ that our armies are kept up only to 
multiply dependence, and to awe the nation from the exertion of its rights ; 

* In consequence of the treaty of Vienna in 1725, between Austria and Spain, George 
I., becoming alarmed for Hanover, entered into a defensive treaty between France and 
Prussia, to last for fifteen years. This was the treaty of Hanover in 1725. To reconcile 
the English, nation to this treaty, the real object of which was the protection of Hanover, 
it was strongly impressed on the country by ministers (at the head of whom was Sir 
Robert Walpole), " That the Emperor and the King of Spain, exclusive of the public 
treaties concluded at Vienna, had entered into private engagements, importing that the 
Imperialists should join the Spaniards in recovering Gibraltar and Port Mahon by 
force of arms, in case the King of England should refuse to restore them amicably, ac- 
cording to a solemn promise he had made, that a double marriage should take place be- 
tween the two infants of Spain, and the two archduchesses of Austria ; and that means 
should be taken to place the Pretender on the throne of England." — Smollett. 

c 



14 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

that Spain has been courted only to the ruin of our trade j and that the con » 
vention ^' was little more than an artifice to amuse the people with an idle 
appearance of a reconciliation, which our enemies never intended. 

" Of the stipulation which produced the memorable treaty of Hanover, the 
improbability was often urged, but the absolute falsehood could be proved 
only by the declaration of one of the parties. This declaration was at length 
produced by time, which was never favourable to the measures of our minis- 
ter. For the Emperor of Germany asserted, with the utmost solemnity, that 
no such article was ever proposed ; and that his engagements with Spain 
had no tendency to produce any change in the government of this kingdom. 

" Thus it is evident, Sir, that all the terrors which the apprehension of 
this alliance produced, were merely the operation of fraud upon cowardice ; 
and that they were only raised by the artful French, to disunite us from the 
only power with which it is our interest to cultivate an inseparable friend- 
ship. This disunion may therefore be justly charged upon the minister, who 
has weakened the interest of this country, and endangered the liberties of 
Europe. 

*' If it be asked, Sir, how he could have discovered the falsehood of the 
report, before it was confuted by the late Emperor, it may easily be answered, 
that he might have discovered it by the same tokens which betrayed it to 
his opponents, the impossibility of putting it into execution. For it must 
be confessed, that his French informers, well acquainted with his disposition 
to panic fears, had used no caution in the construction of their imposture, 
nor seem to have had any other view, than to add one error to another, to 
sink his reason with alarms, and to overbear him with astonishment. 

" When they found he began to be disordered at the danger of our trade 
from enemies ^vithout naval forces, they easily discovered that, to make him 
the slave of France, nothing more was necessary than to add, that these 
bloody confederates had projected an invasion ; that they intended to add 
slavery to poverty, and to place the Pretender upon the throne. 

" To be alarmed into vigilance had not been unworthy of the firmest and 
most sagacious minister ; but to be frightened by such reports into measures 
which even an invasion could scarcely have justified, was, at least, a proof of 
a capacity not formed by nature for the administration of government. 

" If it be required, what advantage was granted by this treaty to the French, 
and to what inconveniences it has subjected this nation, an answer may very 
justly be refused, till the nunister or his apologists shall explain his conduct 
in the last war with Spain ; and inform us why the plate fleet was spared, 
our ships sacrificed to the worms, and our admiral and his sailors poisoned 
in an unhealthy climate ; f why the Spaniards, in full security, laughed at 
our armaments, and triumphed in oui' calamities. 

* See Speech page 5. 

+ Mr Pitt here alludes to Rear-admiral Hosier's expedition to the Spanish West 
Indies, in 1726, to block up the galleons carrying treasure, but which escapecl him, by 
notice sent to them of his cominor. 



THE EARL OF CHATHAlVi;, 15 

**The lives of Hosier* and his forces are now justly to be demanded from 
this man ; he is now to be charged with the murder of those unhappy men 
whom he exposed to misery and contagion, to pacify, on one hand, the 
Britons, who called out for war, and to gratify, on the other, the French, 
who insisted that the Spanish treasures should not be seized. 

" The minister who neglects any just opportunity of promoting the power 
or increasing the wealth of his country, is to be considered as an enemy to 
his fellow-subjects ; but what censure is to be passed upon him who betrays 
that army to a defeat, by which victory might have been obtained — im- 
poverishes the nation whose afFaii*s he is entrusted to transact, by those ex- 
peditions which might enrich it ; who levies armies only to be exposed to 
pestilence, and compels them to perish in sight of their enemies without 
molesting them ? It cannot, surely, be denied, that such conduct may justly 
produce a censure more severe than that which is intended by this motion ; 
and that he who has doomed thousands to the grave, who has co-operated 
■with foreign powers against his country, who has protected its enemies, and 
dishonoured its arms, should be deprived, not only of his honours, but his 
life ; that he should, at least, be stripped of those riches which he has 
amassed during a long series of successful wickedness ; and not barely be 
hindered from making new acquisitions, and increasing his wealth by multi- 
plying his crimes. 

" But no such penalties. Sir, are now required ; those who have long stood 
up in opposition to him, give a proof, by the motion, that they were not in- 
cited by personal malice ; since they are not provoked to propose any treason- 
able censure, nor have recommended what might be authorised by his ov/n 
practice, an act of attainder, or a bill of pains and penalties. They desire 
nothing further than that the security of the nation may be restored, and the 
discontents of the people pacified, by his removal from that trust which he 
has so long abused. 

" The discontent of the people is, in itself, a reason for agreeing to this 
motion, which no rhetorical vindicator of his conduct will be able to counter- 
balance ; for since it is necessary to the prosperity of the government, that 
the people should believe their interest favoured and their liberties pro- 
tected ; since to imagine themselves neglected, and to be neglected in reality, 
must produce in them the same suspicions and the same distrust, it is the 
duty of every faithful subject, whom his station qualifies, to offer advice to 
his Sovereign — to persuade him, for the preservation of his o^wn honour, and 
the affection of his subjects, to remove from his councils that man w^honi 
they have long considered as the author of pernicious measures, and a 
favourer of arbitrary power." 

The motion was lost by a large majority. 



* " This brave man (Hosier) being restricted by his orders from obeying the dictates 
of his courage, seeing his best officers and men daily swept off by an outrageous dis- 
temper, and his ships exposed to inevitable destruction, is said to have died of a broken 
heart." — Smollett, 

c2 



16 THE MOBER^^ ORATOR. 

In February, 1741, Sir Robert Walpole resigned office, and was created 
Earl of Orford. On the 9th March, 1 742, Lord Limerick moved for the ap- 
pointment of a committee to inquire into the conduct of the late Government 
for the last twenty years, which was supported by Mr Pitt, and was rejected 
by a majority of two only, in a house consisting of 486 members. In conse- 
quence of this small majority, Lord Limerick, on the 23rd March, 1742, 
moved for a committee of inquiry into the last ten years of the late ad- 
ministration ; when Mr Pitt made the following speech in support of the 
motion : — 

" Sir, 

" As the honourable gentleman who spoke last, against the motion, has 
not been long in the House,* one ought in charity to believe there is some 
sincerity in the professions he makes of his being ready to agree to a par- 
liamentary inquiry, when he sees cause, and a convenient time for it ; but if 
he knew how often those professions have been made by those who, on all 
occasions, have opposed every kind of inquiry, he would save himself the 
trouble of making any such, because they are believed to be sincere by very 
few, within doors or without. He may, it is true, have no occasion, upon 
his own account, to be afraid of an inquiry of any sort ; but when a gentle- 
man has contracted a friendship, or any of his near relations have contracted 
a friendship, for one who may be brought into danger by an inquiry, it is 
very natural to suppose, that such a gentleman's opposition to an inquiry 
does not proceed entirely from motives of a public nature ; and if that gen- 
tleman follows the advice of some of his friends, I very much question if he 
will ever see cause, or a convenient time, for an inquiry into the late con- 
duct of our public affairs. As a parliamentary inquiry must always be 
founded upon suspicions as well as facts, or manifest crimes, it will always 
be easy to find reasons or pretences for averring those suspicions to be 
groundless ; and upon the principle that a parliamentary inquiry must neces- 
sarily lay open the secrets of our government, no time can ever be proper or 
convenient for such an inquiry, because it is impossible to suppose a time 
v\'hen our government can have no secrets of importance to the nation. 

" This, Sir, would be a most convenient doctrine for ministers, because it 
would put an end to all parliamentary inquiries into the conduct of our pub- 
lic affairs ; and therefore, when I hear it ui'ged, and so much insisted upon 
by a certain set of gentlemen in this House, I must suppose their hopes to 
be very extensive. I must suppose them to expect that they and their pos- 
terity will for ever continue to be ministers ; which, if possible, would be 
more fatal to it than their having so long continued to be so. But this doc- 
trine has been so often contradicted by experience, that I am surprised to 
hear gentlemen insist upon it. Even this very session has afforded us a 
convincing proof hoAV little foundation there is for saying that a parlia- 
mentary inquiry must necessarily discover the secrets of our government. 

* Mr George Cooke, of Harefield, 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 17 

Surely, iii a war with Spain, which must be carried on chiefly by sea, if ou^ 
government have any secrets the Lords of the Admiralty must be entrusted 
with the most important of them ; yet we have, in this very session, and 
without any secret committees, made an inquiry into the conduct of the 
Lords Commissioners of our Admiralty. We have not only inquired into 
their conduct, but we have censured it in such a manner as hath put an end 
to the same commissioners being any longer entrusted with that branch of 
the public business. Has that inquiry discovered any of the secrets of our 
government ? On the contrary, the committee found they had no occasion 
to probe into any of the secrets of government. They found cause enough 
for censure without it ; and none of the commissioners pretended to justify 
their conduct by papers containing secrets which ought not to be dis- 
covered. 

" This, Sir, is so recent and so sti-ong a proof of there being no necessary 
connexion between a parliamentary inquiry and a discovery of secrets which 
it behoves the nation to conceal, that I hope gentlemen will no longer insist 
upon this . danger as an argument against the inquiry now proposed, which, 
of all others, is the least liable to objection. The first commissioner of the 
treasury has nothing to do with the application of secret service money. He 
is only to take care that it be regularly issued from his office, and that no 
more shall be issued upon that head, than according to the then conjuncture 
of affairs may seem to be necessary. As to the particular application, it pro- 
perly belongs to the secretaries of state, or such other persons as his Ma- 
jesty shall employ; so that we cannot suppose the inquiry proposed will 
discover any secrets relating to the application of that money, unless the 
noble lord has acted as secretary of state, as well as first commissioner of 
the treasury ; or unless a great part of the money drawn out for secret 
services has been delivered to himself, or to persons employed by him, and 
applied by him or them towards gaining a corrupt influence in parliament, 
or at elections. Both these, indeed, he is most grievously suspected of, 
and both are secrets which it behoves him very much to have concealed ; 
but it equally behoves the nation to have them both revealed. His country 
and he are, I grant, in this cause equally, though oppositely, concerned ; for 
the safety or ruin of one or the other depends upon the fate of the question; 
and, in my opinion, the violent opposition made to this motion adds great 
strength to the suspicion. 

" I shall admit, Sir, that the noble lord whose conduct is now proposed to 
be inquired into, was one of his Majesty's most honourable privy council, and 
that consequently he must have had a share at least in advising all the mea- 
sures which have been pursued, both abroad and at home ; but I cannot 
admit, that therefore an inquiry into his conduct must necessarily occasion a 
discovery of any secrets that may be of dangerous consequence to the 
nation ; because we are not to inquire into the measures themselves, or into 
the msdom or uprightness of them, and consequently can have no necessity 
to search into any of the Government's secrets relating to them. This has 



18 THE MODERN OKATOE. 

nothing to do with an inquiry into his conduct ; but there are several sus- 
picions spread abroad relating to his conduct as a privy counsellor, which, 
if true, would be of the last importance to the nation to have discovered. 
It has been strongly asserted, that he was not only a privy counsellor, but 
had usurped the whole and sole direction of his Majesty's privy council. 
It has been asserted, that he gave the Spanish court the first hint of the un- 
just claim they afterwards set up against our South Sea Company, which was 
one of the chief causes of the war between the two nations. And it has 
been asserted, that this very minister has given advice to the French what 
measui-es to take upon several occasions, in order to bring our court into 
their measures ; particularly, that he advised them to send the numerous 
army they have this last summer sent into Westphalia. What truth there 
is in these assertions, I shall not pretend to answer. The facts are of such 
a nature, and they must have been perpetrated with so much caution and 
secresy, that it will be difficult to bring them to light, even by a parliamentary 
inquiry ; but the very suspicion is ground enough for setting up such an in^ 
qtdry, and for carrying it on with the utmost strictness and vigour ; which 
leads me to consider the cause we now have for an inquiry. 

"Whatever my opinion of past measures may be, I shall never be so vain 
or bigoted to my own opinion, as, without any inquiry, to determine against 
the majority of my countrymen. If I found the public measures generally 
condemned, let my private opinion of them be never so favourable, I should 
be for an inquiry, in order to convince the people of their error, or at least 
to furnish myself with the most authentic arguments for the opinion I have 
embraced. The desire of bringing other people into our sentiments is so 
natural to mankind that I shall always suspect the candour of those who, 
in politics or religion, are against a free inquiry. Besides, Sir, when the 
complaints of the people are general against an administration, or against 
any particular minister, an inquiry is a duty Ave owe to our Sovereign as well 
as the people. We meet here to communicate to our Sovereign the senti- 
ments of his people. We meet here to redress the grievances of the 
people. By performing our duty in these two respects, we shall always 
be able to establish the throne of our Sovereign in the hearts of his 
people, and to prevent the people's being led into insurrections or rebel- 
lions by misrepresentations or false surmises. When the people complain, 
they must be in the right or in the wrong. If they are in the right, we are 
in duty bound to inquire into the conduct of the ministers, and punish those 
who shall appear to have been the most guilty. If the people are in the 
Avrong, we ought to inquire into the conduct of our ministers, in order to 
convince the people that they have been misled. We ought not, therefore, 
in any question about an inquiry, to be governed by our oAvn sentiments. 
We must be governed by the sentiments of our constituents, if we are 
resolved to perform our duty, either as true representatives of the people, or 
as faithful messengers to our Sovereign. I will agree with the honourable 
gentleman, that if we are convinced, or suspect, the public measures to be 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 19 

wrong, we ought to inquire into them, even though they are not much com- 
plained of by the people without doors ; but I cannot agree with him in 
thinking that, notwithstanding the administration, or a minister's being 
complained of by the people in general without doors, we ought not to 
inquire into his conduct, unless we are ourselves convinced that his measures 
have been wrong. Without an inquiry, we can no more determine this 
question than a judge can declare a man innocent of any crime laid to his 
charge without a trial. Common fame is a sufficient ground for an inqui- 
sition at common law ; and, for the same reason, the general voice of the 
people of England ought always to be looked on as a sufficient ground for a 
parliamentary inquiry. 

" But, say gentlemen, what is this minister accused of? What crime is 
laid to his charge ? For, unless some misfortune is said to have happened, 
or some crime to have been committed, no inquiry ought to be set on foot. 
Sir, the ill posture of our affairs, both abroad and at home, the melancholy 
situation we are in, the distresses we are now reduced to, are sufficient 
causes for an inquiry, even supposing he were accused of no particular 
crime or misconduct. The nation lies bleeding, perhaps expiring. The 
balance of power has received a deadly blow. Shall we acknowledge this 
to be the case, and shall we not inquire whether it has happened by mis- 
chance, or by the misconduct, perhaps the malice prepense, of our minister 
here at home ? Before the treaty of Utrecht,* it was the general opinion, 
that in a few years of peace we should be able to pay off most of our debts. 
We have now been very near thirty years in profound peace ; at least, we 
have never been engaged in any war but what we unnecessarily "brought 
upon ourselves ; and yet our debts are near as great as they were when that 
treaty was concluded. Is not this a misfortune, and shall we make no 
inquiry how this misfortune has happened } 

" I am surprised to hear it said, that no inquiry ought to be set on foot 
unless some public crime be known to have been committed. The suspicion 
of any crime having been actually committed, has always been deemed a 
sufficient reason for setting up an inquiry. Is there not a suspicion that the 
public money has been applied towards gaining a corrupt influence at elec- 
tions ? Is it not become a common expression to say, ' The floodgates of 
the treasury are opened against a general election ?' I shall desire no more 
than that every gentleman, who is conscious of this having been done, either 
for or against him, would give his vote in favour of this motion. WiU any 
gentleman say this is not a crime, when even private corruption has such 
high penalties inflicted upon it by express statute ? A minister that commits 
this crime, and makes use of the public money for that purpose, adds breach 
of trust to the crime of corruption ; and as the crime, when committed by 
him, is of much more dangerous consequence than when committed by a 
private man, it becomes more properly the object of a parliamentary inquiry, 

* The Treaty of Utrecht was signed on the 31st March, 1713. 



20 THE MODERN ORATOE. 

and ought to be more severely punished. The honourable gentleman may 
much more reasonably tell us that Porteus ,was never murdered by the mob 
at Edinburgh,* because no discovery of his murderers could ever yet be 
made, notwithstanding the high reward, as well as pardon, offered, than to 
tell us, we cannot suppose our minister ever, by himself or his agents, cor- 
rupted an election, because no information has yet been brought against him; 
for nothing but a pardon, on convicting the offender, has ever yet been 
offered in this case ; and how could any informer expect such a pardon, much 
less a reward, when he knew the very man against whom he was to inform 
had not only the distribution of all public rewards, but the packing of a jury 
or Parliament against him ? Sir, whilst such a minister preserves the favour 
of the Crown, and thereby the exercise of its power, we can never expect 
such an information. Even malice itself can never provoke such an informa- 
tion ; because, like all other sorts of impotent malice, it wdll rebound upon 
the heart that conceived it. 

" This shows the insignificancy of the act mentioned by the honourable 
gentleman, with regard to that sort of corruption which is called bribery ; 
and -svith regard to the other sort of corruption, which consists in giving 
or taking away those posts, pensions, or preferments, which depend upon the 
arbitrary will of the Crown ; this act is still more insignificant, because it is not 
necessary ; it would even be ridiculous in a minister to tell any man that he gave 
or refused him a post, pension, or preferment, on account of his voting for or 
against any ministerial measure in Parliament, or any ministerial candidate 
at an election. If he makes it his constant rule never to give a post, pen- 
sion, or preferment, but to those who vote for his measures and his candidates, 
and makes a few examples of dismissing those who vote otherwise,! it will 
have the same effect as when he declares it openly. Will any gentleman say, 
that this has not been the practice of the minister whose conduct is now 
proposed to be inquired into ? Has he not declared, in the face of this 
House, that he will continue to make this his practice ? And will not this 
have the same effect as if he went separately and distinctly to every par- 
ticular man, and told him, in express terms : ' Sir, if you vote for such 
a measure, or such a candidate, you shall have the first preferment in the 
gift of the Crown ; if you vote otherwise, you must not expect to keep what 
you have.' Gentlemen may deny the sun shines at no6n-day ; but if they 
have any eyes, and do not wilfully shut them, or turn their backs towards 
him, I am sure no man ^vill believe they are ingenuous in what they say ; and 
therefore I think the honourable gentleman was in the right who en- 
deavoured to justify this practice. It was more candid than to deny it ; but 

* Jolm Porteus was an officer of the guard of the city of Edinburgh, and had fired 
on the people at the time of the execution of a smuggler, at which he was present to 
preserve order. He was tried for murder, and sentenced to death. A reprieve, how- 
ever, having been sent, the populace broke into the prison where he was confined, 
brought him out, and executed him themselves, 1736. 

t See note page 5. 



THE LAHL OF CHATHAM. 21 

as his arguments have been ah'eady fully answered, I shall add nothmg 
upon that subject. 

" Gentlemen cry out, What! will you take from the Crown the power of 
preferring or cashiering the officers of our army ? No, Sir ; this is neither the 
design, nor will it be the effect, of our agreeing to this motion. The King 
has, at present, an absolute power of preferring or cashiering the officers 
of our army. It is a prerogative he may make use of for the benefit or 
safety of the public ; but, like other prerogatives, it may be made a ^vrong 
use of ; and the minister is answerable to Parliament when it is. When an 
officer is preferred, or cashiered, upon the motive of his voting for or 
against any court measure or candidate, it is a Avrong use of this preroga- 
tive, for which the minister is answerable. We may judge from circum- 
stances, or outward appearances. From these we may condemn ; and I hope 
we have still a power to punish any minister that will dare to advise the 
King to prefer or cashier upon such a motive. Whether this prerogative 
ought to remain as it is, without any limitation, is a question that has 
nothing to do in this debate ; but I must observe, that the argument made 
use of for it might with equal weight be made use of for giving our King an 
absolute power over every man's property ; for a large property will always 
give the possessor a command over a great number of men, whom he may 
arm and discipline if he pleases. I know of no law for restraining it. I 
hope there never will be any such; and I wish our gentlemen of estates 
would make more use of this power than they do, because it would contri- 
bute towards keeping our domestic, as well as our foreign, enemies in awe. 
For my part, I think a gentleman who has earned his commission by his ser- 
vices (in his military capacity I mean), or bought it with his money, has as much 
a property in it as any man has in his estate, and ought to have it as well 
secured by the laws of his country. Whilst it remains at the absolute will 
of the Cro'svn, he must be a slave to the minister, unless he has some other 
estate to depend on ; and if the officers of our army long continue in that 
state of slavery in which they are at present, I am afraid it will make slaves 
of us all. 

" The only method we have for preventing this fatal consequence, as the 
law now stands, is to make the best and most constant use of the power we 
have, as members of this House, to prevent any minister's daring to advise 
the King to make a bad use of his prerogative ; and as there is such a 
strong susjDicion that this minister has done so, we ought certainly to in- 
quire into it, not only for the sake of punishing him, if guilty, but as a 
terror to all future ministers. 

" This, Sir, may therefore be justly reckoned among the many other suffi- 
cient causes for the inquiry proposed ; and the suspicion of the civil list's 
being greatly in debt, is another ; for if it is, it must either have been mis- 
applied or profusely thrown away, which it is our duty both to prevent and 
punish. It is inconsistent with the honour of this nation to have our King 
stand indebted to his servants or tradesmen, who may be ruined by a delay 



22 THE MODERN OEATOE. 

of payment. The Parliament has provided sufficiently for preventing this 
dishonour being brought upon the nation ; and if the provision we have 
made should be misapplied or lavished, we must supply the deficiency : we 
ought to do it, whether the King makes any application for that purpose or 
no ; and the reason is very plain, because we ought first to inquire into the 
management of that revenue, and punish those who have occasioned the 
deficiency. They will certainly choose to leave the creditors of the crown 
and the honour of the nation in a state of suffering, rather than advise the 
King to make an application which will bring their conduct into question, 
and themselves probably to condign punishment. Beside this, Sir, there is 
at present another reason still stronger for promoting an inquiry. As there 
is a great suspicion that the public money has been applied towards cor- 
rupting voters at elections, and members when elected, if the civil list be in 
debt, it gives reason to presume that some part of this revenue has, under 
the pretence of secret service money, been applied to that wicked purpose. 

" I shall conclude. Sir, with a few remarks upon the last argument made 
use of against the inquiry proposed. It has been said, that the minister 
delivered in his accounts annually ; that those accounts have been annually 
passed and approved of by Parliament ; and that therefore it would be unjust 
to call him now to a general account, because the vouchers may now be lost, 
or many expensive transactions have slipped out of his memory. 'Tis true. 
Sir, estimates and accounts have been annually delivered in. The forms of 
proceeding made that necessary ; but were any of those estimates or accounts 
ever properly inquired into ? Were not all questions for that purpose re- 
jected by the minister's friends in Parliament ? Has not the Parliament 
always taken them upon trust, and passed them without examination ? Can 
such a superficial passing, to call it no worse, be deemed a reason for not 
calling him to a new and general account ? If the steward to an infant's 
estate should annually, for twenty years together, deliver in his accounts to 
the guardians ; and if the guardians, through negligence, or for a share of 
the plunder, should annually pass his accounts without any examination, or 
at least without any objection ; would that be a reason for saying, that it 
would be unjust in the infant to call his steward to an account when he 
came of age ? especially if that steward had built and furnished sumptuous 
palaces, and had, during the whole time, lived at a much greater expense 
than his visible income could afford, and yet nevertheless had amassed great 
riches. The public, Sir, is always in a state of infancy ; therefore no pre- 
scription can be pleaded against it, nor even a general release, if there ap- 
pears the least cause to suspect that it was surreptitiously obtained. Public 
vouchers ought always to remain upon record ; nor ought there to be any 
public expense without a proper voucher ; therefore, the case of the public 
is still stronger than that of any infant. Thus the honourable gentleman 
who made use of this objection must see of how little avail it can be in the 
case now before us j and consequently I hope we shall have his concurrence 
in the question." 



THE EAKL OF CHATHAM. 23 

The motion was carried, but the inquiry was afterwards defeated by the 
persons brought up for examination, including Mr Paxton, solicitor to the 
Treasury, claiming an exemption, on the plea that they might render them- 
selves liable to prosecution. 

A bill for their indemnity was passed in the House of Commons, but 
rejected by the House of Lords, and consequently the inquiry dropped. 



Mr Pitt was appointed Paymaster of the Forces in February, 1746. 
During the time that he held this office, he never received any pecuniary 
benefit from investing the monies belonging to the office (as had been the 
custom with his predecessors), but always placed the same in the Bank 
ready to be appropriated for the public service. 

The following is also an instance of the truly noble and high-minded 
character of Lord Chatham : — 

The subsidies granted to the King of Sardinia and Queen of Hungary, at 
that time were made payable at the office of the Paymaster of the Forces, 
and it was the custom to retain, as a perquisite of office, at least half per 
cent, from the whole amount of the subsidies. This perquisite, however, 
Mr Pitt refused to accept ; and upon the King of Sardinia being so informed, 
he expressed much surprise at such great disinterestedness, and directed his 
agent to offer to Mr Pitt the same sum as a royal present ; but Mr Pitt re- 
plied, that as Parliament had granted those sums for such uses, he had no 
right to any part of the money ; that he did no more than his duty in pay- 
ing it entire ; and hoped the refusal of the King's present would not, there- 
fore, give offence. When his Sardinian Majesty heard this he said, " Surely 
this Englishman is somewhat more than a man." 



The following is the only reported part of Mr Pitt's speech in support of a 
clause in the Mutiny Bill, introduced by Mr Pelham (who was of Mr Pitt's 
own party), by which it was proposed to subject officers on half-pay to 
martial law. The bill created great excitement in the army and navy, as 
well as in Parliament. — 1748. 

" What danger can arise from obliging a half-pay officer to continue upon 
the military establishment ? It is admitted on all hands, that while he is 
in full pay he must employ his time, his study, and even his sword, as his 
superiors shall direct. There may possibly be danger in this, but it never 
can happen until the direction becomes wicked, nor prevented but by the 
virtue of the army. It is to that virtue we even at this time trust, small as 
our army is ; it is to that virtue we must have trusted had this bill been 
modelled as its warmest opposers could have wished; and without this 
virtue, should the Lords, the Commons, and the people of England, entrench 
themselves behind parchment up to the teeth, the sword will find a passage 
to the vitals of the constitution." 



24 THE MODERN ORATOK. 

The folloAving speech was delivered by Mr Pitt, in opposition to the 
famous American Stamp Act; which had been brought forward by Mr 
Grenville, by the desire of George III. 

The immediate motion before the House was, for an address to the King, 
after his speech on the opening of Parliament, on the 14th January, 1765. 
" Sir, 

" I came to town but to-day ; I was a stranger to the tenor of his 
Majesty's speech, and the proposed address, till I heard them read in this 
House. Unconnected and unconsulted, I have not the means of informa- 
tion ; I am fearful of offending through mistake, and therefore beg to be in- 
dulged with a second reading of the proposed address." [The address having 
been again read, Mr Pitt expressed his approval of the King's speech, and 
of the address, inasmuch as the latter left the members of the House at 
liberty to adopt their own views upon the American question, and then 
resumed : — ] " One word only I cannot approve of — an early, is a word that 
does not belong to the notice the Ministry have given to Parliament of the 
troubles in America. In a matter of such importance, the communication 
ought to have been immediate : I speak not with respect to parties ; I stand 
up in this place single and unconnected. As to the late Ministry,* every 
capital measure they have taken has been entirely wrong ! 

" As to the present gentlemen, to those at least whom I have in my eye, 
I have no objection ;f I have never been made a sacrifice by any of them. 
Their characters are fair ; and I am always glad when men of fair character 
engage in his Majesty's service. Some of them have done me the honour 
to ask my opinion before they would engage. These would do me the jus- 
tice to own, I advised them to engage ; but notwithstanding — I love to be 
explicit — I cannot give them my confidence ; pardon me, gentlemen, confi- 
dence is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom : youth is the season of 
credulity ; by comparing events with each other, reasoning from effects to 
causes, methinks I plainly discover the traces of an over-ruling influence. 

" There is a clause in the act of settlement to oblige every minister to 
sign his name to the advice which he gives his Sovereign. Would it were 
observed ! I have had the honour to serve the Crown, and if I could have 
submitted to influence, I might have still continued to serve ; but I would 
not be responsible for others. I have no local attachments ; it is indifierent 
to me, whether a man was rocked in his cradle on this side or that side of 
the Tweed. I sought for merit wherever it was to be found. It is my 
boast, that I was the first minister who looked for it, and I found it in the 
mountains in the North. I called it forth, and drew it into your service, a 

* In the course of the summer of 1765, a change in the administration had taken 
place, and Mr Grenville went out of office. The Duke of Rockingham became first 
Lord of the Treasury, and General Conway and the Duke of Grafton were appointed 
Secretaries of State. 

t Mr Pitt here looked at General Conway and the Treasury benches. 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 25 

liardy and intrepid race of men ! men, who, when left by your jealousy, be- 
came a prey to the artifices of your enemies, and had gone nigh to have over- 
turned the state in the war before the last. These men, in the last war, were 
brought to combat on your side ; they served with fidelity, as they fought 
with valour, and conquered for you in every part of the world. Detested be 
the national reflections against them ! — they are unjust, groundless, illiberal, 
unmanly. When I ceased to serve his Majesty as a minister, it was not the 
country of the man by which I was moved — but the man of that country 
wanted wisdom, and held principles incompatible ^vith. freedom. ^'■ 

" It is a long time, Mr Speaker, since I have attended in Parliament. 
"WHien the resolution was taken in the House to tax America,! I was ill in 
bed. If I could have endured to have been carried in my bed, so great was 
the agitation of my mind for the consequences, I would have solicited some 
kind hand to have laid me down on this floor, to have borne my testimony 
against it ! It is now an act that has passed — I would speak with decency 
of every act of this House, but I must beg the indulgence of the House to 
speak of it with freedom. 

" I hope a day may be soon appointed to consider the state of the nation 
with respect to America. I hope gentlemen will come to this debate with 
all the temper and impartiality that his Majesty recommends, and the im- 
portance of the subject requires — a subject of greater importance than ever 
engaged the attention of this House ; that subject only excepted when, near 
a century ago, it was the question whether you yourselves were to be bound 
or free. In the meantime, as I cannot depend upon health for any future 
day, such is the nature of my infirmities, I will beg to say a few words at 
present, leaving the justice, the equity, the policy, the expediency of the act, 
to another time. I will only speak to one point — a point which seems not 
to have been generally imderstood — I mean to the right. Some gentlemen 
seem to have considered it as a point of honour.^ If gentlemen consider 
it in that light, they leave all measures of right and wrong, to follow a 
delusion that may lead to destruction. It is my opinion, that this kingdom 
has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies. At the same time, I assert the 
authority of this kingdom over the colonies to be sovereign and supreme, in 
every circumstance of government and legislation whatsoever. They are 
the subjects of this kingdom, equally entitled with yourselves to all the 
natural rights of mankind and the peculiar privileges of Englishmen; 
equally bound by its laws, and equally participating of the constitution of 
this free country. The Americans are the sons, not the bastards of England. 
Taxation is no part of the governing or legislative power. The taxes are a 

* He alludes here to his retirement from the Cabinet on 5th October, 1761, in con- 
sequence of Lord Bute's influence over the King. 

t The resolution for taxing the North American Colonies were first proposed by Mr 
Grenville, in March 1765. 



26 5:he modern orator. 

voluntary gift and grant of the Commons alone. In legislation the three 
estates of the realm are alike concerned, but the concurrence of the Peers 
and the Crown to a tax, is only necessary to clothe it with the form of 
a law. The gift and grant is of the Commons alone. In ancient days 
the Cro\vn, the barons, and the clergy possessed the lands. In those days 
the barons and the clergy gave and granted to the Crown. They gave 
and granted what was their own. At present, since the discovery of America, 
and other circumstances permitting, the Commons are become the proprietors 
of the land. The Church (God bless it) has but a pittance. The property 
of the Lords, compared with that of the Commons, is as a drop of water in 
the ocean ; and this House represents those Commons, the proprietors of the 
lands ; and those proprietors virtually represent the rest of the inhabitants. 
When, therefore, in this house we give and grant, we give and grant what 
is our o'svn. But in an American tax, what do we do ? We, your Majesty's 
Commons for Great Britain, give and grant to your Majesty — what ? Our 
own property ? — No. We give and grant to your Majesty the property of 
your Majesty's Commons of America. It is an absurdity in terms. 

" The distinction between legislation and taxation is essentially necessary 
to liberty. The Crown, the Peers, are equally legislative powers with the 
Commons. If taxation be a part of simple legislation, the Crown and the 
Peers have rights in taxation as well as yourselves ; rights which they will 
claim, which they will exercise, whenever the principle can be supported by 
power. 

" There is an idea in some, that the colonies are virtually represented in 
the House. I would fain know by whom an American is represented here ? 
Is he represented by any knight of the shire, in any county in this kingdom? 
Would to God that respectable representation was augmented to a greater 
number ! Or will you tell him that he is represented by any representative 
of a borough — a borough which perhaps no man ever saw ? This is what is 
called the rotten part of the constitution. It cannot continue a century : if 
it does not drop, it must be amputated. The idea of a virtual representation 
of America in this House, is the most contemptible idea that ever entered 
into the head of a man — it does not deserve a serious refutation. 

" The Commons of America, represented in their several assemblies, have 
ever been in possession of the exercise of this, their constitutional right of 
giving and granting their own money. They would have been slaves, if they 
had not enjoyed it. At the same time, this kingdom, as the supreme govern- 
ing and legislative power, has always bound the colonies by her laws, by her 
regulations, and restrictions in trade, in navigation, in manufactures — in 
everything, except that of taking their money out of their pockets mthout 
their consent. 

" Here I would draw the line — 

" ' Quam ultra citraque neque consistere rectum.' " 
[Mr Grenville, in reply, defended his own policy, and insisted that, as this 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 27 

country was acknowledged to possess supreme legislative power over Ame- 
rica, taxation was a part of that sovereign power ; and that it had been 
frequently exercised over those who were represented; and instanced the 
case of the East India Company, the proprietors of the public funds, the 
Palatine of Chester, and the Bishopric of Durham, before they sent repre- 
sentatives to Parliament. On this Mr Pitt again rose, and addressed the 
House thus : — ] 

*' I did not mean to have gone any further upon the subject to-day ; I 
had only designed to have thrown out a few hints, which gentlemen, who 
were so confident of the right of this kingdom to send taxes to America, 
might consider ; might perhaps reflect, in a cooler moment, that the right 
was at least equivocal. But since the gentleman who spoke last, has not 
stopped on that ground, but has gone into the whole, into the justice, the 
equity, the policy, the expediency of the stamp act, as well as into the right, 
I will follow him thlvugh the whole field, and combat his arguments on every 
point." 

[A question of order here arose, in consequence of Mr Pitt having pre- 
viously spoken. The Speaker having, however, decided that he was in 
order, he proceeded thus : — ] 

" I do not apprehend I am speaking twice : I did expressly reserve a part 
of my subject, in order to save the time of this House, but I am compelled 
to proceed in it. I do not speak twice ; I only finish what I designedly left 
imperfect. But if the House is of a difierent opinion, far be it from me to 
indulge a wish of transgression against order. I am content, if it be your 
pleasure, to be silent." 

[But the House calling upon him to proceed, he thus continued : — ] 

" Gentlemen, Sir, have been charged with giving birth to sedition in 
America.* They have spoken their sentiments with freedom against this 
unhappy act, and that freedom has become their crime. Sorry I am to hear 
the liberty of speech in this House imputed as a crime. But the imputation 
shall not discourage me. It is a liberty I mean to exercise. No gentleman 
ought to be afraid to exercise it. It is a liberty by which the gentleman 
who calumniates it might have profited. He ought to have desisted from 
his project. The gentleman tells us, America is obstinate ; America is al- 
most in open rebellion. I rejoice that America has resisted. Three millions 
of people so dead to all the feelings of liberty, as voluntarily to submit to be 
slaves, would have been fit instruments to make slaves of the rest. I come 
not here, armed at all points with law cases and Acts of Parliament, with 
the statute book doubled down in dogs' ears, to defend the cause of liberty : 
if I had, I myself would have cited the two cases of Chester and Durham. 

* Mr Grenville, in his speech, had said, that the Americans had been encouraged to 
sedition by the factious language of the opposition members. 



28 THE MODERN OBATOll. 

I would have cited them, to have shown that, even under any arbitrary reigns, 
parliaments were ashamed of taxing a people without their consent, and 
allowed them representatives. Why did the gentleman confine himself to 
Chester and Durham ? he might have taken a higher example in Wales ; 
Wales, that never was taxed by Parliament till it was incorporated. I would 
not debate a particular point of law^ with the gentleman : I know his abilities, 
I have been obliged to his diligent researches : but, for the defence of liberty 
upon a general principle, upon a constitutional principle, it is a ground on 
which I stand firm ; on which I dare meet any man. The gentleman tells 
us of many who are taxed, and are not represented : the India Company, 
mxcrchants, stock-holders, manufacturers. Surely many of these are repre- 
sented on other capacities, as owners of land, or as freemen of boroughs. It 
is a misfortune that more are not equally represented. But they are all in- 
habitants, and as such, are they not virtually represented ? Many have it in 
their option to be actually represented. They have connexions vnih those 
that elect, and they have influence over them. The gentleman mentioned 
the stock-holders : I hope he does not reckon the debts of the nation as a 
part of the national estate. 

" Since the accession of King William, many ministers, some of great, 
others of more moderate abilities, have taken the lead of government. 
None of these thought, or ever dreamed, of robbing the colonies of their 
constitutional rights. That was reserved to mark the era of the late admi- 
nistration ; not that there were wanting some, when I had the honour to 
serve his Majesty, to propose to me to burn my fingers with an American 
stamp act. With the enemy at then* back, with our bayonets at their 
breasts, in the day of their distress, perhaps the Americans w^ould have sub- 
mitted to the imposition; but it would have been taking an ungenerous and 
unjust advantage. The gentleman boasts of his bounties to America ! ^' Are 
not those bounties intended finally for the benefit of this kingdom ? If they 
are not, he has misapplied the national treasures. I am no courtier of 
America — I stand up for this kingdom. I maintain that the Parliament has 
a right to bind, to restrain America. Our legislative power over the colonies 
is sovereign and supreme. "When it ceases to be sovereign and supreme, I 
would advise every gentleman to sell his lands, if he can, and embark for 
that country. When two countries are connected together, like England 
and her colonies, without being incorporated, the one must necessarily go- 
vern ; the greater must rule the less ; but so rule it, as not to contradict the 
fundamental principles that are common to both. 

" If the gentleman does not understand the difference between external 
and internal taxes, I cannot help it ; but there is a plain distinction between 
taxes levied for the purpose of raising a revenue, and duties imposed for the 
regulation of trade, for the accommodation of the subject ; although, in the 
consequences, some revenue might incidentally arise from the latter. 

* Mr Grenyille had charged the Americans with exhibiting ingratitude to this 
country, after bounties had been given on their timber, iron, hemp, and other articles. 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 29 

** The gentleman asks, when were the colonies emancipated ?"* But I 
desire to know when they were made slaves. But I dwell not upon words. 
When I had the honour of serving his Majesty, I availed myself of the 
means of information which I derived from my office ; I speak, therefore, 
from knowledge. My materials were good : I was at pains to collect, to 
digest, to consider them ; and I will be bold to affirm, that the profits to 
Great Britain from the trade of the colonies, through all its branches, is two 
millions a year. . This is the fund that carried you triumphantly through the 
last war. The estates that were rented at two thousand pounds a year 
threescore years ago, are at three thousand pounds at present. Those estates 
sold then from fifteen to eighteen years' purchase ; the same may now be 
sold for thirty. You owe this to America. This is the price America pays 
for her protection. And shall a miserable financier come with a boast, that 
he can fetch a pepper-corn in the Exchequer, to the loss of millions to the 
nation ? I dare not say, how much higher these profits may be augmented. 
Omitting the immense increase of people by natural population, in the 
northern colonies, and the emigration from every part of Europe, I am 
convinced the commercial system of America may be altered to advantage. 
You have prohibited where you ought to have encouraged, and encouraged 
where you ought to have prohibited. Improper restraints have been laid on 
the continent, in favour of the islands. You have but two nations to trade 
with in America. Would you had twenty ! Let acts of parliament in 
consequence of treaties remain, but let not an English minister become a 
custom-house officer for Spain, or for any foreign power. Much is wrong, 
much may be amended for the general good of the whole. 

" Does the gentleman complain he has been misrepresented in the public 
prints ? It is a common misfortune. In the Spanish affair of last war, I was 
abused in all the newspapers, for having advised his Majesty to violate the 
law of nations with regard to Spain. The abuse was industriously circulated 
even in hand-bills. If administration did not propagate the abuse, adminis- 
tration neve?' contradicted it. I will not say what advice I did give to the 
King. My advice is in writing, signed by myself, in the possession of the 
Crown.f But I mil say what advice I did not give to the King : I did 
not advise him to violate any of the laws of nations. 

* Mr Grenville, in his speech, made use of this unfortunate expression. 

t Mr Pitt alludes to his policy in 1761, when (being convinced of the hostile 
feelings of the Spanish government towards England, although they professed a desire 
to settle all disputes amicably, and having, it is said, by private means, actual infor- 
mation of the family compact between France, Spain, and Austria, having been signed 
on the part of Spain) he strongly insisted, in council, that England should strike the 
first blow and immediately seize on the Spanish galleons, and, in order to take the 
full responsibility of this advice upon himself, he reduced his proposition to writing, 
and delivered it in signed by himself and Lord Temple. His advice being rejected, 
Mr Pitt at once resigned, and for his conduct on this occasion he was abused in the 
most violent terms by many of the public papers. Before the close of the year 1761, 
Mr Pitt's ideas of the real intentions of the King of Spain (Charles III.) were verified, 
and war was declared between the two countries, 

D 



50 THE iCODEEK OEATOK. 

*' As to tlie report of the gentleman's preventing in some way the trade 
for bullion with the Spaniards, it was spoken of so confidently, that I own I 
am one of those who did believe it to be true.* 

*' The gentleman must not wonder he was not contradicted, when, as the 
minister, he asserts the right of Parliament to tax America. I know not how 
it is, but there is a modesty in this House which does not choose to contradict 
a minister. I wish gentlemen would get the better of this modesty. Even 
that chair, Sir, sometimes looks towards St James's. If they do not, 
perhaps the collective body may begin to abate of its respect for the repre- 
sentative. Lord Bacon had told me, that a great question would not fail of 
being agitated at one time or another. I was willing to agitate that at the 
proper season ; the German war, my German war, they called it. Every 
session I called out, Has anybody any objections to the German war ? No- 
body would object to it, one gentleman only excepted, since removed to the 
Upper House, by succession to an ancient barony .f ' He did not like a 
German war.' I honoured the man for it, and was sorry when he was turned 
out of his post. 

" A great deal has been said without doors, of the power, of the strength 
of America. It is a topic that ought to be cautiously meddled with. In a 
good cause, on a sound bottom, the force of this country can crush America 
to atoms. I know the valour of your troops. I know the skill of your officers. 
There is not a company of foot that has served in America, out of which you 
may not pick a man of sufficient knowledge and experience to make a governor 
of a colony there. But on this ground, on the Stamp Act, when so many here 
will think it a crying injustice, I am one who will lift up my hands against it. 

" In such a cause, your success would be hazardous. America, if she fell, 
would fall like the strong man. She would embrace the pillars of the state, 
and pull down the constitution along with her. Is this your boasted peace ? 
Not to sheath the sword in its scabbard, but to sheath it in the bowels of your 
countrymen ? Will you quarrel with yourselves, now the whole House of 
Bourbon is united against you? while France disturbs your fisheries in 
Newfoundland, embarrasses your slave-trade to Africa, and withholds from 
your subjects in Canada their property stipulated by treaty ? while the 
ransom for the Manillas is denied by Spain, and its gallant conqueror basely 
traduced into a mean plunderer, a gentleman whose noble and generous spirit 
would do honour to the proudest grandee of the country ? J The Americans 
have not acted in all things with prudence and temper. The Americans have 

* Mr Grenville had said, " I have been particularly charged with giving orders and 
instructions to prevent the Spanish trade, and thereby stopping the channel by which 
alone North America used to be supplied with cash for remittances to this country ; I 
defy any man to produce any such orders or instructions." 

t Lord le Despencer, formerly Sir F. Dashwood. 

X Manilla, the capital of the Manillas or Philippine Islands, belonging to Spain, 
surrendered to Sir Wm Draper, in 1762; but a ransom of four million dollars was 
agreed to be given for all private property, and accepted. 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 31 

been wronged. They have been driven to madness by injustice. Will you 
punish them for the madness you have occasioned ? Rather let prudence and 
temper come first from this side. I will undertake for America, that she will 
follow the example. There are two lines in a ballad of Prior's, of a man's 
behaviour to his wife, so applicable to you and your colonies, that I cannot 
help repeating them : — 

♦• « Be to her faults a little blind : 
Be to her virtues very kind.* 

" Upon the whole, I will beg leave to tell the House what is really my 
opinion. It is, that the Stamp Act be repealed absolutely, totally, and imme- 
diately. That the reason for the repeal be assigned, because it was founded 
on an erroneous principle. At the same time, let the sovereign authority of 
this country over the colonies be asserted in as strong terms as can be devised, 
and be made to extend to every point of legislation whatsoever. That we 
may bind their trade, confine their manufactures, and exercise every power 
whatsoever, except that of taking their money out of their pocket withou 
their consent." 

The motion was carried without a division. 



Speech of Lord Chatham on the motion for an address to the King, after 
his Majesty's speech on the opening of Parliament, on the 9th of January, 
1770, 

Mr Pitt had been raised to the peerage in July, 1766, by the titles of 
" Viscount Pynsent and Earl of Chatham." 

The greater part of this speech is, unfortunately, only reported in the third 
person, but connected as it is with the speech immediately following, it could 
not be omitted : — 

" His Lordship, after complimenting the mover of the address (Lord 
Ancaster), took notice how happy it would have made him to have been able 
to concur with the noble Duke in every part of an address, which was meant 
as a mark of respect and duty to the Crown, professed personal obligations to 
the King, and veneration for him ; that, though he might differ from the noble 
Duke in the form of expressing his duty to the Crown, he hoped he should give 
his Majesty a more substantial proof of his attachment than if he agreed with 
the motion. That, at his time of life, and loaded as he was with infirmities, 
he might, perhaps, have stood excused if he had continued in his retirement, 
and never taken part again in public affairs. But that the alarming state of 
the nation called upon him, forced him to come forward once more, and to 
execute that duty which he owed to God, to his sovereign, and to his country ; 
that he was determined to perform it, even at the hazard of his life ; that 
there never was a period which called more forcibly than the present, for the 
serious attention and consideration of that House ; that, as they were the 
grand hereditary counsellors of the Crown, it was particularly their duty, at 
a crisis of such importance and danger, to lay before their Sovereign the true 

D 2 



52 THE MODEEN OEATOK. 

state and condition of his subjects, the discontent which universally prevailed 
amongst them, the distresses* under which they laboured, the injuries they 
complained of, and the true causes of this unhappy state of affairs. 

" That he had heard with great concern of the distemper among the cattle,* 
and was very ready to give his approbation to those prudent measures which 
the council had taken for putting a stop to so dreadful a calamity. That he 
was satisfied there was a power, in some degree arbitrary, with which the 
constitution trusted the Crown, to be made use of under correction of the 
legislature, and at the hazard of the minister, upon any sudden emergency, 
or unforeseen calamity, which might threaten the welfare of the people, or 
the safety of the state. f That on this principle he had himself advised a 
measure which he knew was not strictly legal ; but he had recommended it 
as a measure of necessity, to save a starving people from famine, and had 
submitted to the judgment of his country. 

" That he was extremely glad to hear, what he owned he did not believe 
when he came into the House, that the King had reason to expect that his 
endeavours to secure the peace of this country would be successful ; for that 
certainly a peace was never so necessary as at a time when we were torn to 
pieces by divisions and distractions in every part of his Majesty's dominions. 
That he had always considered the late peace, however necessary in the then 
exhausted condition of this country, as by no means equal in point of advantage 
to what we had a right to expect from the successes of the war, and from 
the still more exhausted condition of our enemies. That having deserted 
our allies, we were left without alliances, and, diiring a peace of seven years, 
had been every moment on the verge of a war : that, on the contrary, France 
had attentively cultivated her allies, particularly Spain, by every mark of 
cordiality and respect. That if a war was unavoidable, we must enter into it 
without a single ally, while the whole house of Bourbon was united within 
itself, and supported by the closest connexions with the principal powers in 
Europe. That the situation of our foreign affairs was undoubtedly a matter 
of moment, and highly worthy their lordships' consideration ; but that he 

* Mentioned by the King in his speech. 

t In consequence of a seditious libel appearing in No. 45 of the " North Briton,*^ 
accusing the King of knowingly uttering falsehoods from the throne, on the opening of 
Parliament in April, 1763, minibters took upon themselves to issue a general warranty 
on the 26th of April, for the seizure of the authors, printers, and publishers, without 
designating any by name ; by virtue of which, after many persons had been seized, 
Mr John Wilkes, at that time a member of parliament for Aylesbury, was arrested. 
"Whereupon an application was made to the Court of Common Pleas, for a writ of 
habeas corpus, but, before the writ could be issued, he was lemoved to the Tower, for 
refusing to answer questions ; upon which another writ of habeas corpus was obtained 
from the Common Pleas, directed to the constable of the Tower : and, on the case 
coming on for argument, Chief-Justice Pratt (afterwards Lord Camden), though he 
considered the commitment legal, according to precedent, directed Mr Wilkes to be 
set at liberty, on the ground that it was a breach of the privileges of Parliament to 
.ajrest him for anything '.ess than treason, felony, or breach of the peace. 



TttE EAKL OF CHATHAM. 35 

declared with grief, there were other matters still more important, and more 
urgently demanding their attention ; he meant the distractions and divisions 
which prevailed in every part of the empire. He lamented the unhappy 
measure which had divided the colonies from the mother country, and which 
he feared had drawn them into excesses which he could not justify. He 
owned his natural partiality to America, and was inclined to make allowance 
even for those excesses. That they ought to be treated with tenderness ; 
for in his sense they were ebullitions of liberty, which broke out upon the 
skin, and w^ere a sign, if not of perfect health, at least of a vigorous constitu- 
tion, and must not be driven in too suddenly, lest they should strike to the 
heart. He professed himself entirely ignorant of the present state of America, 
therefore should be cautious of giving any opinion of the measures fit to be 
pursued with respect to that country. That it was a maxim he had observed 
through life, when he had lost his way, to stop short, lest by proceeding 
without knowledge, and advancing (as he feared a noble duke had done) 
from one false step to another, he should wind himself into an inextricable 
labyrinth, and never be able to recover the right road again. That as the 
House had yet no materials before them, by which they might judge of the 
proceedings of the colonies, he strongly objected to their passing that heavy 
censure upon them, which Avas conveyed in the word univarrantahle, contained 
in the proposed address. That it was passing a sentence without hearing 
the cause, or being acquainted with facts, and might expose the proceedings 
of the House to be received abroad Avith indifference or disrespect. That if 
unwarrantable meant anything, it must mean illegal ; and how could their 
lordships decide that proceedings, which had not been stated to them in any 
shape, were contrary to law ? That what he had heard of the combinations 
in America, and of their success in supplying themselves with goods of their 
own manufacture, had indeed alarmed him much for the commercial interests 
of the mother country; but he could not conceive in Avhat sense they could 
be called illegal, much less how a declaration of that House could remove 
the evil. That they were dangerous indeed, and he greatly wished to have 
that Avord substituted for unwarrantable. That we must look for other 
remedies. That the discontent of tAvo millions of people deserved considera- 
tion ; and the foundation of it ought to be removed. That this w^as the true 
way of putting a stop to combinations and manufactures in that country ; but 
that he reserved himself to give his opinion more particularly upon this subject, 
when authentic information of the state of America should be laid before the 
House ; declaring only for the present that Ave should be cautious how we 
invaded the liberties of any part of our fellow-subjects, hoAvever remote in 
situation, or unable to make resistance. That liberty Avas a plant that 
deserved to be cherished; that he loved the tree, and wished Avell to every 
branch of it. That, like the vine in the Scripture, it had spread from east to 
west, had embraced Avhole nations A\4th its branches, and sheltered them under 
its leaves. That the Americans had purchased their liberty at a dear rate, since 
they had quitted their native country, and gone in search of freedom to a desert 



Si THE MOBEBN ORATOIL 

" That the parts of the address which he had already touched upon, how- 
ever important in themselves, bore no comparison with that which still 
remained. That indeed there never was a time, at which the unanimity 
recommended to them by the King was more necessary than at the present ; 
but he differed very much from the noble duke, with respect to the propriety 
or utility of those general assurances contained in the latter part of the 
address. That the most perfect harmony in that House would have but 
little effect towards quieting the minds of the people, and removing their 
discontent. That it was the duty of that House to inquire into the causes 
of the notorious dissatisfaction expressed by the whole English nation ;* 
to state those causes to their sovereign, and then to give him their best ad- 
vice in what manner he ought to act. That the privileges of the House of 
Peers, however transcendent, however appropriated to them, stood in fact 
upon the broad bottom of the people. They were no longer in the condi- 
tion of the barons, their ancestors, who had separate interests and separate 
strength to support them. The rights of the greatest and of the meanest 
subjects now stood upon the same foundation; the security of law, common 
to all. It was therefore their highest interest, as well as their duty, to watch 
over and guard the people ; for when the people had lost their rights, those 
of the peerage would soon become insignificant. To argue from experience ^ 
he begged leave to refer their lordships to a most important passage in his- 
tory, described by a man of great abilities, Mr Robertson. This writer, in 
his life of Charles the Fifth (a great, ambitious, wicked man), informs us, 
that the peers of Castile were so far cajoled and seduced by him, as to join 
him in overturning that part of the Cortes which represented the people. 
They were weak enough to adopt, and base enough to be flattered with, an 
expectation, that by assisting their master in this iniquitous purpose, they 
should increase their own strength and importance. What was the conse- 
quence? They exchanged the constitutional authority of peers, for the 
titular vanity of grandees. They were no longer a part of a parliament, 
for that they had destroyed ; and when they pretended to have an opinion 
as grandees, he told them he did not understand it ; and, naturally 
enough, when they had surrendered their authority, treated their advice with 
contempt. The consequences did not stop here. He made use of the peo- 
ple whom he had enslaved to enslave others, and employed the strength of 
the Castilians to destroy the rights of their free neighbours of Aragon. 

*' My lords, let this example be a lesson to us all. Let us be cautious how 
we admit an idea that our rights stand on a footing different from those of 
the people. Let us be cautious how we invade the liberties of our fellow- 
subjects, however mean, however remote ; for be assured, my lords, that in 
whatever part of the empire you suffer slavery to be established, whether it 
be in America or in Ireland, or here at home, you will find it a disease which 

* At the expulsion of Mr Wilkes, by the House of Commons, after being returned 
member for Middlesex by a large majority. 



THIS EARL Ot CHATHAM. 55 

Spreads by contact, and soon reaches from the extremities to the heart. 
The man who has lost his own freedom, becomes from that moment an in- 
strument in the hands of an ambitious prince, to destroy the freedom of 
others. These reflections, my lords, are but too applicable to our present 
situation. The liberty of the subjects is invaded, not only in provinces, but 
here at home. The English people are loud in their complaints : they pro- 
claim with one voice the injuries they have received ; they demand redress, 
and depend upon it, my lords, that one way or other, they will have redress. 
They will never return to a state of tranquillity until they are redressed : 
nor ought they ; for in my judgment, my lords, and I speak it boldly, it were 
better for them to perish in a glorious contention for their rights, than to 
purchase a slavish tranquillity at the expense of a single iota of the consti- 
tution. Let me entreat your lordships, then, in the name of all the duties 
you owe to your sovereign, to your country, and to yourselves, t6 perform 
that office to which you are called by the constitution ; by informing his 
Majesty truly of the condition of his subjects, and of the real causes of their 
dissatisfaction. I have considered the matter with most serious attention ; 
and as I have not in my own breast the smallest doubt that the present 
universal discontent of the nation arises from the proceedings of the House 
of Commons upon the expulsion of Mr Wilkes, I think that we ought, in 
our address, to state that matter to the King. I have drawn up an amend- 
ment to the address, which I beg leave to submit to the consideration of the 
House." 

[His Lordship then read his amendment, which was as follows : — ] 
" 'And for these great and essential purposes, we will, with all convenient 
speed, take into our most serious consideration the causes of the discontents 
which prevail in so many parts of your Majesty's dominions, and particularly 
the late proceedings of the House of Commons, touching the incapacity of 
John Wilkes, Esq. (expelled by that House) to be elected a member to serve 
in this present Parliament, thereby refusing (by a resolution of one branch 
of the legislature only) to the subject his common right, and depriving 
the electors of Middlesex of their free choice of a representative.' 

" The cautious and guarded terms in which this amendment is drawn up, 
will, I hope, reconcile every noble lord who hears me to my opinion ; and 
as I think no man can dispute the truth of the facts, so I am persuaded 
no man can dispute the propriety and necessity of laying those facts before 
his Majesty." 

[Lord Mansfield, in opposition to the amendment, expressed his strong 
disapprobation of general declarations of the law being made by either 
House of Parliament, as they could not be recognised as law by the judges ; 
but he drew the distinction between such declarations and a particular deci- 
sion, on a case coming regularly before either House and properly the subject 
of their jurisdiction ; and contended, that, in the case of Mr Wilkes, a 
question regarding the privileges of their own House came properly and 



36 ini: MODEEx ohatob. 

judicially before the Commons ; and that, therefore, it would be exceedingly 
improper for the House of Lords to enter upon an inquiry into the proceed* 
ings of the Lower House with respect to their own members, and that such 
an interference would inevitably led to a rupture between the two Houses.] 
To this speech of Lord Mansfield, Lord Chatham replied as follows : — • 

"My Lords, 

"There is one plain maxim, to which I have invariably adhered through 
life : — That in every question, in which my liberty or my property were con- 
cerned, I should consult and be determined by the dictates of common sense. 
I confess, my lords, that I am apt to distrust the refinements of learning, 
because I have seen the ablest and the most learned men equally liable to 
deceive themselves, and to mislead others. The condition of human nature 
would be lamentable indeed, if nothing less than the greatest learning and 
talents, which fall to the share of so small a number of men, were sufficient 
to direct our judgment and our conduct. But Providence has taken better 
care of our happiness, and given us, in the simplicity of common sense, a 
rule for our direction, by which we shall never be misled. I confess, my 
lords, I had no other guide in drawing up the amendment which I sub- 
mitted to your consideration ; and before I heard the opinion of the noble 
lord who spoke last, I did not conceive that it was even within the limits 
of possibility for the greatest human genius, the most subtile understanding, 
or the acutest wit, so strangely to misrepresent my meaning, and to give it 
an interpretation so entirely foreign fi^om what I intended to express, and 
from that sense which the very terms of the amendment plainly and distinctly 
carry with them. If there be the smallest foundation for the censure thrown 
upon me by that noble lord — if, either expressly, or by the most distant im- 
plication, I have said or insinuated any part of what the noble lord has 
charged me with, discard my opinions for ever, discard the motion with 
contempt. 

"My lords, I must beg the indulgence of the House. Neither will my 
health permit me, nor do I pretend to be qualified to follow that learned 
lord minutely through the whole of his argument. No man is better 
acquainted with his abilities and learning, nor has a greater respect for them, 
than I have. I have had the pleasure of sitting with him in the other 
House,* and always listened to him with attention. I have not now lost a 
word of what he said, nok did I ever. Upon the present question, I meet 
him without fear. The evidence which truth carries with it, is superior to 
all argument ; it neither wants the support, nor dreads the opposition, of the 
greatest abilities. If there be a single word in the amendment to justify the 
interpretation which the noble lord has been pleased to give it, I am ready 
to renounce the whole : let it be read, my lords ; let it speak for itself." 
[The amendm^ent was then read.] — " In what instance does it interfere with 

* Lord Mansfield sat in the House of Commons as Mr Murray. He was created Baron 
Mansfield, in 1756. In the Lower House, he was always opposed by Mr Pitt. 



THE EARL OP CHATHAM. 37 

the privileges of the House of Commons ? In what respect does it question 
their jurisdiction, or suppose an authority in this House to arraign the 
justice of their sentence ? I am sure that every lord who hears me, will bear 
me witness, that I said not one word touching the merits of the Middlesex 
election ; so far from conveying any opinion upon that matter in the amend- 
ment, I did not even in discourse deliver my own sentiments upon it. I did 
not say that the House of Commons had done either right or wrong ; but, 
when his Majesty was pleased to recommend it to us to cultivate unanimity 
amongst ourselves, I thought it the duty of this House, as the great here- 
ditary council of the Crown, to state to his Majesty the distracted condition 
of his dominions, together with the events which had destroyed unanimity 
among his subjects. But, my lords, I stated those events merely as facts, 
without the smallest addition either of censure or of opinion. They are 
facts, my lords, which I am not only convmced are true, but which I know 
are indisputably true. For example, my lords : will any man deny that 
discontents prevail in many parts of his Majesty's dominions ? or that those 
discontents arise from the proceedings of the House of Commons touching 
the declared incapacity of Mr Wilkes ? 'Tis impossible : no man can deny 
a truth so notorious. Or will any man deny that those proceedings refused, 
by a resolution of one branch of the legislature only, to the subject his com- 
mon right ? Is it not indisputably true, my lords, that Mr Wilkes had a 
common right, and that he lost it no other way but by a resolution of the 
House of Commons } My lords, I have been tender of misrepresenting the 
House of Commons : I have consulted their journals, and have taken the 
very words of their own resolution. Do they not tell us, in so many words, 
that Mr Wilkes, having been expelled, was thereby rendered incapable of 
serving in that Parliament ? And is it not their resolution alone, which 
refuses to the subject his common right? The amendment says further, 
that the electors of Middlesex are deprived of their free choice of a represen- 
tative. Is this a false fact, my lords ? or have I given an unfair representa- 
tion of it ? Will any man presume to affirm that Colonel Luttrell is the free 
choice of the electors of Middlesex }^ We all know the contrary ; we aU 
know that Mr Wilkes (whom I mention without either praise or censure) was 
the favourite of the county, and chosen by a very great and acknowledged 
majority, to represent them in Parliament. If the noble lord dislikes the 
manner in which these facts are stated, I shall think myself happy in being 
advised by him to how to alter it. I am very little anxious about terms, pro- 
vided the substances be preserved ; and these are facts, my lords, which I 
am sure will always retain their weight and importance, in whatever form of 
language they are described. 

" Now, my lords, since I have been forced to enter into the explanation 
of an amendment, in which nothing less than the genius of penetration 
could have discovered an obscurity, and having, as I hope, redeemed myself 

* The votes polled were 1U3 for Wilkes, and 296 for Luttrell ; but the House, by a 
vote, rejected Wilkes, and declared Luttrell elected. 



38 THE MODERN OBATOK. 

in the opinion of the House, having redeemed my motion from the severe 
representation given of it by the noble lord, I must a little longer entreat 
your lordships' indulgence. The constitution of this country has been 
openly invaded in fact ; and I have heard, with horror and astonishment, 
that very invasion defended upon principle. What is this mysterious power, 
undefined by law, unknown to the subject, which we must not approach 
without awe, nor speak of without reverence, which no man may question 
and to which all men must submit ? My lords, I thought the slavish doc- 
trine of passive obedience had long since been exploded: and, when our 
kings were obliged to confess that their title to the crown, and the rule of 
their government, had no other foundation than the known laws of the land, 
I never expected to hear a divine right, or a divine infallibility, attributed to 
any other branch of the legislature. My lords, I beg to be understood ; no 
man respects the House of Commons more than I do, or would contend 
more strenuously than I would, to preserve them their just and legal autho- 
rity. Within the bounds prescribed by the constitution, that authority is 
necessary to the well-being of the people : beyond that line every exertion of 
power is arbitrary, is illegal ; it threatens tyranny to the people, and destruc- 
tion to the state. Power without right is the most odious and detestable 
object that can be offered to the human imagination : it is not only pernicious 
to those who are subject to it, but tends to its own destruction. It is what 
my noble friend (Lord Lyttelton) has truly described it. Res detestahilis et 
caduca. My lords, I acknowledge the just power, and reverence the consti- 
tution of the House of Commons. It is for their own sakes that I would 
prevent their assuming a power which the constitution has denied them, lest, 
by grasping at an authority they have no right to, they should forfeit that 
which they legally possess. My lords, I affii'm that they have betrayed their 
constituents, and violated the constitution. Under pretence of declaring the 
law, they have made a law, and united in the same persons the office of 
legislator and of judge. 

" I shall endeavour to adhere strictly to the noble lord's doctrine, which is 
indeed impossible to mistake, so far as my memory will permit me to pre- 
serve his expressions. He seems fond of the word jurisdiction ; and I con- 
fess, with the force and effect which he has given it, it is a word of copious 
meaning and wonderful extent. If his lordship's doctrine be well founded, 
we must renounce all those political maxims by which our understandings 
have hitherto been directed, and even the first elements of learning taught 
us in our schools when we were school-boys. My lords, we knew that juris- 
diction was nothing more than jus dicer e ; we knew that legem facere and 
legem dicere were powers clearly distinguished from each other in the nature 
of things, and wisely separated by the wisdom of the English constitution ; 
but now, it seems, we must adopt a new system of thinking. The House 
of Commons, we are told, has a supreme jurisdiction ; that there is no 
appeal from their sentence ; and that wherever they are competent judges, 
their decision must be received and submitted to, as, ipso facto^ the law of 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 39 

the land. My lords, I am a plain man, and have been brought up in a reli- 
gious reverence for the original simplicity of the laws of England. By what 
sophistry they have been perverted, by what artifices they have been involved 
in obscurity, is not for me to explain; the principles, however, of the English 
laws are still sufficiently clear : they are founded in reason, and are the 
master- piece of the human understanding; but it is in the text that I 
would look for a direction to my judgment, not in the commentaries of 
modern professors. The noble lord assures us, that he knows not in what 
code the law of Parliament is to be found ; that the House of Commons, 
when they act as judges, have no law to direct them but their own wisdom ; 
that their decision is law ; and if they determine wrong, the subject has no 
appeal but to heaven. What then, my lords, are all the generous efibrts of 
our ancestors — are all those glorious contentions, by which they meant to 
secure to themselves, and to transmit to their posterity, a known law, a cer- 
tain rule of living — ^reduced to this conclusion, that instead of the arbitrary 
power of a king, we must submit to the arbitrary power of a House of Com- 
mons ? If this be true, what benefit do we derive from the exchange ? 
Tyranny, my lords, is detestable in every shape ; but in none so formidable 
as when it is assumed and exercised by a number of tyrants. But, my 
lords, this is not the fact, this is not the constitution ; we have a law of Par- 
liament ; we have a code in which every honest man may find it. We 
have Magna Charta, we have the Statute Book, and the Bill of Bights. 

" If a case should arise unknown to these great authorities, we have still 
that plain English reason left, which is the foundation of all our English 
jurisprudence. That reason tells us, that every judicial court and every 
political society must be vested with those powers and privileges which are 
necessary for performing the ofiice to which they are appointed. It tells us 
also, that no court of justice can have a power inconsistent with, or para- 
mount to, the known laws of the land ; that the people, when they choose 
their representatives, never mean to convey to them a power of invading the 
rights or trampling upon the liberties of those whom they represent. What 
security would they have for their rights, if once they admitted that a court 
of judicature might determine every question that came before it, not by any 
known, positive law, but by the vague, indeterminate, arbitrary rule, of what 
the noble lord is pleased to call the wisdom of the court ? With respect to 
the decision of the courts of justice, I am far from denying them their due 
weight and authority ; yet, placing them in a most respectablevi ew, I still 
consider them, not as law, but as an evidence of the law ; and before they 
can arrive even at that degree of authority, it must appear that they are 
founded in, and confirmed by, reason ; that they are supported by precedents 
taken from good and moderate times ; that they do not contradict any posi- 
tive law ; that they are submitted to without reluctance by the people : that 
they are unquestioned by the legislature (which is equivalent to a tacit con- 
firmation) ; and, what, in my judgment, is by far the most important, that 
they do not violate the spirit of the constitution. My lords, this is not a 



40 THE MODERN ORATOH. 

vague "or loose expression ; we all know what the constitution is ; we all 
know, that the first principle of it is, that the subject shall not he governed 
by the arhitrium of any one man, or body of men (less than the whole legis- 
lature), but by certain laws, to which he has -virtually given his consent, 
which are open to him to examine, and not beyond his ability to understand. 
Now, my lords, I affii'm, and am ready to maintain, that the late decision of 
the House of Commons upon the Middlesex election, is destitute of every 
one of those properties and conditions which I hold to be essential to the 
legality of such a decision. It is not founded in reason ; for it carries with 
it a contradiction, that the representative should perform the office of the 
constituent body. It is not supported by a single precedent : for the case of 
Sir R. Walpole is but a half precedent, and even that half is imperfect. 
Incapacity was indeed declared, but his crimes are stated as the ground of 
the resolution, and his opponent was declared to be not duly elected, even 
after his incapacity was established. It contradicts Magna Charta and the 
Bill of Rights, by which it is provided, that no subject shall be deprived of 
his freehold, unless by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land; 
and that elections of members to serve in Parliament shall be fr'ee ; and so 
far is this decision fr-om being submitted to by the people, that they have 
taken the strongest measures, and adopted the most positive language, to 
express their discontent. ^Vhether it will be questioned by the legislatui'e, 
mil depend upon your lordships' resolution ; but that it violates the spiiit of 
the constitution ^\tI1, I think, be disputed by no man who has heard this 
daj'^'s debate, and who wishes well to the freedom of his country ; yet, if we 
are to believe the noble lord, this great grievance, this manifest violation of 
the first principles of the constitution, will not admit of a remedy ; is not 
even capable of redress, unless we appeal at once to Heaven. My lords, I 
have better hopes of the constitution, and a firmer confidence in the wisdom 
and constitutional authority of this House. It is to your ancestors, my lords, 
— it is to the English barons that we are indebted for the laws and constitu- 
tion we possess. Their virtues were rude and uncultivated, but they were 
great and sincere. Their understandings were as little polished as their 
manners, but they had hearts to distinguish right from wrong ; they had 
heads to distinguish truth from falsehood; they understood the rights of 
humanity, and they had spirit to maintain them. 

"My lords, I think that history has not done justice to their conduct, 
when they obtained from their sovereign that great acknowledgment of 
national rights contained in Magna Charta ; they did not confine it to them- 
selves alone, but delivered it as a common blessing to the whole people. 
They did not say, These are the rights of the great barons, or these are the 
rights of the great prelates ; — No, my lords ; they said, in the simple Latin 
of the times, nullus liher Jiomo, and provided as carefully for the meanest 
subject as for the greatest. These are uncouth words, and sound but poorly 
in the ears of scholars ; neither are they addressed to the criticism of 
scholars, but the hearts of free men. These three words, nullus liber homo, 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 41 

Kave a meaning which interests us all ; they deserve to be remembered — 
they deserve to be inculcated in our minds — they are worth all the classics. 
Let us not, then, degenerate from the glorious example of our ancestors. 
Those iron barons (for so I may call them when compared with the silken 
barons of modern days) were the guardians of the people ; yet their virtues, 
my lords, were never engaged in a question of such importance as the pre- 
sent. A breach has been made in the constitution — the battlements are 
dismantled — the citadel is open to the first invader — the walls totter — the 
constitution is not tenable. What remains, then, but for us to stand fore- 
most in the breach, to repair it, or perish in it ? 

" Great pains have been taken to alarm us with the dreadful consequences 
of a difference between the two Houses of Parliament — that the House of 
Commons will resent our presuming to take notice of their proceedings ; 
that they will resent our daring to advise the Crown, and never forgive us for 
attempting to save the state. My lords, I am sensible of the importafice and 
difficulty of this great crisis : at a moment such as this, we are called upon 
to do our duty, without dreading the resentment of any man. But if appre- 
hensions of this kind are to affect us, let us consider which we ought to 
respect most — the representative, or the collective body of the people. My 
lords, five hundred gentlemen are not ten millions ; and if we must have a 
contention, let us take care to have the English nation on our side. If this 
question be given up, the freeholders of England are reduced to a condition 
baser than the peasantry of Poland. If they desert their own cause, they 
deserve to be slaves ! — My lords, this is not merely the cold opinion of 
my understanding, but the glowing expression of what I feel. It is my 
heart that speaks : I know I speak warmly, my lords ; but this warmth shall 
neither betray my argument nor my temper. The kingdom is in a flame. 
As mediators between the King and people, it is our duty to represent to him 
the true condition and temper of his subjects. It is a duty which no parti- 
cular respects should hinder us from performing ; and whenever his Majesty 
shall demand our advice, it will then be our duty to inquire more minutely 
into the causes of the present discontents. Whenever that inquiry shall 
come on, I pledge myself to the House to prove, that since the first institution 
of the House of Commons, not a single precedent can be produced to 
justify their late proceedings. My noble and learned friend (the Lord 
Chancellor^') has also pledged himself to the House that he will support that 
assertion. 

" My lords, the character and circumstances of Mr Wilkes have been 
very improperly introduced into this question, not only here, but in that 
court of judicature where his cause was tried : I mean the House of Commons. 
With one party he was a patriot of the first magnitude ; with the other the 
vilest incendiary. For my own part, I consider him merely and indifferently 
as an English subject, possessed of certain rights which the laws have given 

* Lord Camden. 



42 THE MODERN ORATOE. 

him, and which the laws alone can take from him. I am neither moved by 
his private vices nor by his public merits. In his person, though he were 
the worst of men, I contend for the safety and security of the best ; and, God 
forbid, my lords, that there should be a power in this country of measuring 
the civil rights of the subject by his moral character or by any other rule but 
the fixed laws of the land ! I believe, my lords, / shall not be suspected of 
any personal partiality to this unhappy man : I am not very conversant in 
pamphlets or newspapers ; but from what I have heard, and from the little 
I have read, I may venture to affirm that I have had my share in the compli- 
ments which have come from that quarter ; and as for motives of ambition 
(for I must take to myself a part of the noble duke's insinuation), I believe, 
my lords, there have been times in which I have had the honour of standing 
in such favour in the closet, that there must have been something extrava- 
gantly unreasonable in my wishes if they might not all have been gratified ; 
after neglecting those opportmiities, I am now suspected of coming forward, 
in the decline of life, in the anxious pursuit of wealth and power, which it is 
impossible for me to enjoy. Be it so ; there is one ambition at least which 
I ever will acknowledge, which I will not renounce but with my life ; it is 
the ambition of delivering to my posterity those rights of freedom which 
I have received from my ancestors. I am not now pleading the cause of an 
individual, but of every freeholder in England. In what manner this House 
may constitutionally interpose in their defence, and what kind of redress this 
case will require and admit of, is not at present the subject of our considera- 
tion. The amendment, if agreed to, will naturally lead us to such an inquiry. 
That inquiry may, perhaps, point out the necessity of an act of the legislature, 
or it may lead us, perhaps, to desire a conference with the other House ; 
which one noble lord afiirms is the only parliamentary way of proceeding ; 
and which another noble lord assures us the House of Commons would either 
not come to, or would break off" with indignation. Leaving their lordships to 
reconcile that matter between themselves, I shall only say, that before we 
have inquired, we cannot be provided with materials, consequently we are 
not at present prepared for a conference. 

" It is impossible, my lords, that the inquiry I speak of may lead us to 
advise his Majesty to dissolve the present parliament; nor have I any doubt 
of our right to give that advice, if we should think it necessary. His Majesty 
will then determine whether he will yield to the united petitions of the 
people of England, or maintain the House of Commons in the exercise of a 
legislative power which heretofore abolished the House of Lords, and over- 
turned the monarchy. I willingly acquit the present House of Commons of 
having actually formed so detestable a design : but they cannot themselves 
foresee to what excesses they may be carried hereafter ; and for my own 
part, I should be sorry to trust to their future moderation. Unlimited power 
is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it ; and this I know, my 
lords, that where law ends, tyranny begins!" 

The amendment was negatived. 



THE EAKL OF CHATHAM. 48 

The following speech was made on the 22d of January, 1770, in support 
of a motion, by the Marquis of Rockingham, for appointing a day to take 
into consideration the state of the nation. 

The Marquis of Rockingham, in his speech on making this motion, dwelt 
on the alarming state of the country, and charged ministers with having 
adopted a maxim which must prove fatal to the liberties of the country, viz., 
" That the prerogative alone was sufficient to support the Government, to 
whatever hands the administration should be committed." 

The Duke of Grafton addressed the House after the Marquis, in exculpation 
of himxself and his colleagues (then in office), and stated that it was not his 
intention to oppose the motion. 

The Earl of Chatham followed thus : — 
" My Lords, 

" I meant to have risen immediately to second the motion made by the 
noble lord. The charge, Avhich the noble duke seemed to think affected 
himself particularly, did undoubtedly demand an early answer ; it was proper 
he should speak before me, and I am as ready as any man to applaud the 
decency and propriety with which he has expressed himself. 

" I entirely agree with the noble lord, both in the necessity of your lord- 
ships' concurring with the motion, and in the principles and arguments by 
which he has very judiciously supported it. I see clearly, that the complexion 
of our Government has been materially altered ; and I can trace the origin 
of the alteration up to a period which ought to have been an era of happi- 
ness and prosperity to this country. 

" My lords, I shall give you my reasons for concurring with the motion, 
not methodically, but as they occur to my mind. I may wander, perhaps, 
from the exact parliamentary debate ; but I hope I shall say nothing but 
what may deserve your attention, and what, if not strictly proper at present, 
would be fit to be said, when the state of the nation shall come to be con- 
sidered. My uncertain state of health must plead my excuse. I am now in 
some pain, and very probably may not be able to attend my duty, when I 
desire it most, in this House. I thank God, my lords, for having thus 
long preserved so inconsiderable a being as I am, to take a part upon this 
great occasion, and to contribute my endeavours, such as they are, to restore, 
to save, to confirm the constitution. 

" My lords, I need not look abroad for grievances. The grand capital 
mischief is fixed at home. It corrupts the very foundation of our political 
existence, and preys upon the vitals of the state. The constitution has been 
grossly violated."T?HE constitution at this moment stands yioeated. 
Until that wound be healed, until the grievance be redressed, it is in vain to 
recommend union to parliament ; in vain to promote concord among the 
people. If we mean seriously to unite the nation within itself, we must 
convince them that their complaints are regarded, that their inquiries shall 
be redressed. On that foundation I would take the lead in recommending 
peace and harmony to the people. On any other, I would never wish to see 



44 THE MODERN ORATOIi, ' 

them united again. If the Lreacli in the constitution be effectually repaii-ed, 
the people will of themselves return to a state of tranquillity ; if not, may 
DISCORD PREYAIL FOR EYER ! I know to what point this doctrine and this 
language will appear directed. But I feel the principles of an Englishman, 
and I utter them without apprehension or reserve. The crisis is indeed 
alarming : — so much the more does it require a prudent relaxation on the part 
of government. If the King's servants will not permit a constitutional 
question to be decided on, according to the forms and on the principles of 
the constitution, it must then be decided in some other manner ; and rather 
than it should be given up, rather than the nation should surrender their 
birth-right to a despotic minister, I hope, my lords, old as I am, I shall see 
the question brought to issue, and fairly tried bettveen the people and the govern- 
ment. My lords, this is not the language of faction ; let it be tried by that 
criterion by which alone we can distinguish what is factious from what is 
not — by the principles of the English constitution. I have been bred up in 
these principles ; and know, that when the liberty of the subject is invaded, 
and all redress denied him, resistance is justified. If I had a doubt upon 
the matter, I should follow the example set us by the most reverend bench, 
with whom I believe it is a maxim, when any doubt in point of faith arises, 
or any question of controversy is started, to appeal at once to the greatest 
source and evidence of our religion — I mean the Holy Bible : the constitution 
has its political Bible, by which, if it be fairly consulted, every political 
question may, and ought to be determined. Magna Charta, the Petition of 
Bight, and the Bill of Rights, form that code which I call the Bible of the 
English constitution. Had some of his Majesty's unhappy predecessors trusted 
less to the comments of their ministers, had they been better read in the 
text itself, the glorious revolution would have remained only possible in 
theory, and would not now have existed upon record a formidable example 
to their successors. 

" My lords, I cannot agree with the noble duke, that nothing less than 
an immediate attack upon the honour or interest of this nation, can authorise 
us to interpose in defence of weaker states, and in stopping the enterprises of 
an ambitious neighbour. Whenever that narrow, selfish policy, has pre- 
vailed in our councils, we have constantly experienced the fatal effects of it. 
By suffering our natural enemies to oppress the powers less able than we 
are to make a resistance, we have permitted them to increase their strength ; 
we have lost the most favourable opportunities of opposing them with success ; 
and found ourselves at last obliged to run every hazard, in making that cause 
our own, in which we were not wise enough to take part while the expense 
and danger might have been supported by others. With respect to Corsica 
I shall only say, that France has obtained a more useful and important acqui- 
sition in one pacific campaign, than in any of her belligerent campaigns ;^' at 

* Louis XV., in consequence, as was pretended, of the Jesuits being allowed to 
take refuge in Corsica in 1767, purchased the island from the Genoese, and after two 
years' contest, succeeded in subduing it. The French minister, Choiseul, induced the 
British government to render no opposition. 



THE EAEL OF CHATHAM. 45 

least while I had the honour of administering the war against her. The 
word may, perhaps, be thought singular : I mean only while I was the 
minister, chiefly entrusted with the conduct of the war. I remember, my 
lords, the time when Lorrain was united to the crown of France ;* that too was, 
in some measure, a pacific conquest ; and there were people who talked of it as 
the noble duke now speaks of Corsica. France was permitted to take and 
keep possession of a noble province ; and, according to his Grace's ideas, we 
did right in not opposing it. The effect of these acquisitions is, I confess, 
not immediate ; but they unite with the main body by degrees, and, in time, 
make a part of the national strength. I fear, my lords, it is too much the 
temper of this coimtry to be insensible of the approach of danger, until it 
comes with accumulated terror upon us. 

" My lords, the condition of his Majesty's affairs in Ireland, and the state 
of that kingdom within itself, will undoubtedly make a very material part of 
your lordships' inquiry. I am not sufficiently informed to enter into the sub- 
ject so fully as I could wish; but by what appears to the public, and from my 
own observation, I confess I cannot give the ministry much credit for the 
spirit or prudence of their conduct. I see, that even where their measures 
are well chosen, they are incapable of carrying them through without some 
unhappy mixture of weakness or im.prudence. They are incapable of doing 
entirely right. My lords, I do, from my conscience, and from the best 
weighed principles of my understanding, applaud the augmentation of the 
army. As a military plan, I believe, it has been judiciously arranged. In a 
political view, I am convinced it was for the welfare, for the safety of the 
whole empire. But, my lords, with all these advantages, with all these 
recommendations, if I had the honour of advising his Majesty, I would never 
have consented to his accepting the augmentation, with that absurd, disho- 
nourable condition, which the ministry have submitted to annex to it.f My 
lords, I revere the just prerogative of the crown, and would contend for it as 
warmly as for the rights of the people. They are linked together, and 
natur_ally support each other. I would not touch a feather of the preroga- 
tive. The expression, perhaps, is too light ; but, since I have made use of 
it, let me add, that the entire command and power of directing the local 
disposition of the army is the royal prerogative, as the master-feather in the 
eagle's wing ; and if I were permitted to carry the allusion a little farther, I 
would say, they have disarmed the imperial bird, the ' Ministrum fulminis 
alitem' The army is the thunder of the crown. The ministry have tied up 
the hand which should direct the bolt. 

* In the year 1735, by an arrangement between the Emperor of Austria and the 
French. 

t King George III. had, by a message through the Lord Lieutenant, recommended 
the Irish House of Commons to augment the Irish army, and assured them expressly 
that on the augmentation being made, not less than 12,000 men should at all times 
" except in cases of invasion or rebellion in Great Britain," be stationed in Ireland. 



46 THE MODEEN OEATOE. 

*' My lords, I remember that Minorca was lost for ^vant of four batta- 
lions.* They could not be spared from hence ; and there was a delicacy 
about taking them from Ireland. I was one of those who promoted an in- 
quiry into that matter in the other House ; and I was con^dnced we had not 
regular troops sufficient for the necessary service of the nation. Since the 
moment the plan of augmentation was first talked of, I have constantly and 
warmly supported it among my friends : I have recommended it to several 
members of the Irish House of Commons, and exhorted them to support it 
with theu' utmost interest in Parliament. I did not foresee, nor could I con- 
-ceive it possible, the ministry would accept of it, with a condition that makes 
the plan itself ineffectual, and, as far as it operates, defeats every useful 
purpose of maintaining a standing military force. His Majesty is now so 
-confined, by his promise, that he must leave twelve thousand men locked up 
in Ireland, let the situation of his affairs abroad, or the approach of danger 
to this country, be ever so alarming, unless there be an actual rebellion, or 
invasion, in Great Britain. Even in the two cases excepted by the King's 
promise, the mischief must have already begun to operate, must have already 
-taken effect, before his Majesty can be authorised to send for the assistance 
of his Irish army. He has not left himself the power of taking any pre- 
ventive measures, let his intelligence be ever so certain, let his apprehensions 
of invasion or rebellion be ever so well-founded ; unless the traitor be ac- 
tually in arms — unless the enemy be in the heart of yom' country, he cannot 
move a single man from Ireland. 

^' I feel myself compelled, my lords, to return to that subject which occu- 
'pies and interests me most — I mean the internal disorder af the constitution, 
-and the remedy it demands. But first, I would observe, there is one point 
upon which I think the noble duke has not explained himself. I do not 
mean to catch at words, but, if possible, to possess the sense of what I hear. 
•I would treat every man with candour, and should expect the same candour 
in return. For the noble duke, in particular, I have every personal respect 
and regard. I never desire to understand him, but as he wishes to be un- 
derstood. His Grace, I think, has laid much stress upon the diligence of the 
several public offices, and the assistance given them by the administration, 
in preparing a statement of the expenses of his Majesty's civil government, 
for the information of parliament, and for the satisfaction of the public. He 
has given us a number of plausible reasons for their not having yet been able 
to finish the aceount ; but, as far. as I am able to recollect, he has not yet 
given us the smallest reason to hope that it ever will be finished, or that it 
ever will be laid before Parliament. 

"My lords, I am not unpractised in business, and if, with all that appa- 
rent diligence, and all that assistance, which the noble duke speaks of, the 
accounts in question have not yet been made up, I am convinced there must 
be a defect in some of the public offices, which ought to be strictly inquired 

* In 1787. 



THE EAllL OF CHATHAM. 47 

into, and severely punished. But, my lords, the waste of the public money 
is not of itself so important as the pernicious purpose to which we have rea- 
son to suspect that money has been applied. For some years past, there has 
been an influx of wealth into this country, which has been attended with 
many fatal consequences, because it has not been the regular, natural produce 
of labour and industry. The riches of Asia have been poured in upon us, 
and have brought with them not only Asiatic luxury, but, I fear, Asiatic 
principles of government. Without connexions, without any natural interest 
in the soil, the importers of foreign gold have forced their way into Parlia- 
ment, by such a torrent of private corruption, as no private hereditary fortune 
could resist My lords, not saying but what is within the knowledge of us 
all, the corruption of the people is the great original cause of the discontents 
of the people themselves, of the enterprise of the Crown, and the notorious 
decay of the internal vigour of the constitution. For this great evil some 
immediate remedy must be provided ; and I confess, my lords, I did hope 
that his Majesty's servants would not have suffered so many years of peace 
to elapse, without paying some attention to an object which ought to engage 
and interest us all. I flattered myself I should see some barriers thrown 
up in defence of the constitution — some impediment formed to stop the 
rapid progress of corruption. I doubt not we all agree that something must 
be done. I shall oflor my thoughts, such as they are, to the consideration of 
the House ; and I wish that every noble lord who hears me would be as 
ready as I am to contribute his opinion to this important service. I will not 
call my own sentiments crude and indigested ; it would be unflt for me to 
offer anything to your lordships which I had not well considered ; and this 
subject, I own, has not long occupied my thoughts. I will now give them 
to your lordships without reserve. 

" Whoever understands the theory of the English constitution, and will 
compare it with the fact, must see at once how widely they differ. We must 
reconcile them to each other, if we wish to save the liberties of this country ; 
we must reduce our political practice, as nearly as possible, to our principles. 
The constitution intended that there should be a permanent relation between 
the constituent and representative body of the people. Will any man affirm, 
that, as the House of Commons is now formed, that relation is in any de- 
gree preserved ? My lords, it is not preserved ; it is destroyed. Let us be 
cautious, however, how we have recourse to violent expedients. 

" The boroughs of this country have properly enough been called the rotten 
parts of the constitution. I have lived in Cornwall, and without entering 
into an invidious particularity, have seen enough to justify the appellation. 
But in my judgment, my lords, these boroughs, corrupt as they are, must be 
considered as the natural infirmity of the constitution. Like the infirmities 
of the body, we must bear them with patience, and submit to carry them 
about with us. The limb is mortified, but the amputation might be death. 

" Let us try, my lords, whether some gentler remedies may not be dis- 
covered. Since w© cannot cure the disorder, let us endeavour to infuse such 

e2 



48 THE MODERN OEATOK. 

a portion of new health into the constitution, as may enable it to support its 
most inveterate diseases. 

" The representation of the counties is, I think, still preserved pure and 
tmcorrupted. Tliat of the greatest cities is upon a footing equally respect- 
able ; and there are many of the larger trading to'wns, which still preserve 
their independence. The infusion of health which I now allude to, would 
be to permit every county to elect one member more, in addition to their 
present representation. The knights of the shires approach nearest to the 
constitutional representation of the country, because they represent the soil. 
It is not in the little dependent boroughs, it is in the great cities and coun- 
ties that the strength and vigour of the constitution resides, and by them 
alone, if an unhappy question should ever rise, will the constitution be ho- 
nestly and firmly defended. It would increase that strength, because I think 
it is the only security we have against the profligacy of the times, the cor- 
ruption of the people, and the ambition of the Crown. 

" I think I have Vv^eighed every possible objection that can be raised 
against a plan of this nature ; and I confess I see but one, which, to me, 
carries any appearances of solidity. It may be said, perhaps, that when the 
act passed for uniting the two kingdoms, the number of persons who were 
to represent the whole nation in Parliament was proportioned and fixed on 
for ever^* — that this limitation is a fundamental article, and cannot be altered 
without hazarding a dissolution of the union. 

" My lords, no man who hears me can have a greater reverence for that 
wise and important act, than I have. I revere the memory of that great 
prince who first formed the plan, and of those illustrious patriots who car- 
ried it into execution. As a contract, every article of it should be inviolable ; 
as the common basis of the strength and happiness of two nations, every 
article of it should be sacred. I hope I cannot be suspected of conceiving a 
thought so detestable, as to propose an advantage to one of the contracting 
parties at the expense of the other. No, my lords, I mean that the benefit 
should be universal, and the consent to receive it unanimous. Nothing less 
than a most urgent and important occasion should persuade me to vary even 
from the letter of the act ; but there is no occasion, however urgent, how- 
ever important, that should ever induce me to depart from the spirit of it. 
Let that spirit be religiously preserved. Let us follow the principle upon 
which the representation of the two countries was proportioned at the union : 
and when we increase the number of representatives for the English counties, 
let the shires of Scotland be allowed an equal privilege. On these terms, 
and while the proportion limited by the union is preserved between the two 
nations, I apprehend that no man, who is a friend to either, will object to an 
alteration so necessary for the security of both. I do not speak of the au- 

* By the terms of the union of England and Scotland in 1706, it was provided, 
** That the whole people of Great Britain shall be represented by one ^ Parliament, in 
which sixteen Peers and forty-five Commoners chosen for Scotland shall sit and vote." 



THE EAKL OF CHATHAM. 49 

thority of the legislature to carry such a measure into effect, because I 
imagine no man will dispute it. But I would not wish the legislature to in- 
terpose by an exertion of its power alone, without the cheerful concurrence of 
all parties. My object is the happiness and security of the two nations, and 
I would not wish to obtain it without their mutual consent. 

" My lords, besides my warm approbation of the motion made by the noble 
lord, I have a natural and personal pleasure in rising up to second it. I con- 
sider my seconding his lordship's motion, and I would wish it to be con- 
sidered by others, as a public demonstration of that cordial union, which, I 
am happy to affirm, subsists between us — of my attachment to those prin- 
ciples which he has so well defended, and of my respect for his person. 
There has been a time, my lords, when those who wished well to neither of 
us, who wished to see us separated for ever, found a sufficient gratification 
for their malignity against us both. But that time is happily at an end. 
The friends of this country will, I doubt not, hear with pleasure, that the 
noble lord and his friends are now united with me and mine, upon a principle 
which, I trust, will make our union indissoluble. It is not to possess, or di- 
vide, the emoluments of government ; but, if possible, to save the state. 
Upon this ground we met — upon this ground we stand, firm and inseparable. 
No ministerial artifices, no private offers, no secret seduction, can divide us. 
United as we are, we can set the profoundest policy of the present ministry, their 
grand, their only arcanum of government, their divide et impera, at defiance. 

" I hope an early day will be agreed to for considering the state of the 
nation. My infirmities must fall heavily upon me, indeed, if I do not 
attend my duty that day. When I consider my age, and unhappy state of 
health, I feel how little I am personally interested in the event of any poli- 
tical question. But I look forward to others, and am determined, as far as 
my poor ability extends, to convey to those who come after me the blessings 
which I cannot long hope to enjoy myself." 

The motion was agreed to ; the 24th of January being first fixed for the 
discussion, but altered to the 2nd of February. 

On the 29th of January the Duke of Grafton resigned, and was succeeded 
by Lord North. 



On the 2nd of February, 1770, the day fixed for the lords' committee, to 
take into consideration the state of the nation, the Marquis of Rockingham 
moved, " that the House of Commons, in the exercise of its judicature in 
matters of election, is bound to judge according to the law of the land, and 
the known and established law and custom of parliament, which is part 
thereof." The Earl of Sandwich having spoken in opposition, Lord Chat- 
ham replied to him thus : — 
" My Lords, 

" The noble lord has been very adroit in referring to the journals, and in 
collecting every circumstance that might assist his argument. Though my 



50 IHE MODERN OKATOE. 

long and almost continued infirmities have denied me the hour of ease to 
obtain these benefits, yet, without the assistance of the journals, or othei' 
collaterals, I can reply to both the precedents which his lordship has 
produced. 

" I will readily allow the facts to be as the noble earl has stated them, viz., 
that Lionel, Earl of Middlesex,* as well as Lord Bacon,f were both, for 
certain crimes and misdemeanours, expelled this House, and incapacitated 
from ever sitting here ; without occasioning any interference from the other 
branches of the legislature. 

"Neither of these cases bear any analogy to the present case. They 
afiected only themselves. The rights of no constituent body were affected 
by them. It is not the person of Mr Wilkes that is complained of; as an 
individual, he is personally out of the dispute. The cause of complaint, the 
great cause, is, that the inherent rights and franchises of the people are, in 
this case, invaded, trampled upon, and annihilated. Lord Bacon and Lord 
Middlesex represented no county, or city. The rights of no freeholder, the 
franchises of no elector, were destroyed by their expulsion. The cases are 
as widely different as north from south. But I will allow the noble earl a 
succedaneum to his argument, which, probably, he has not as yet thought of. 
I will suppose he urges, ' That whatever authority gives a seat to a peer, it 
is, at least, equally as respectable as to a commoner, and that, both in expul- 
sion and incapacitation, the injury is directly the same :' — Granted; and I 
will further allow, that if Mr Wilkes had not been re-elected by the people, 
the first expulsion, I believe, would be efficient. Therefore, my lords, this 
comparison ceases ; for, except these noble lords mentioned had received a 
fresh title, either by birth or patent, they could not possibly have any claim 
after the first expulsion. The noble lord asks, ' How came this doctrine 
to be broached r' And adds, ' Who should be more tenacious of their liber- 
ties and privileges than the members themselves ?' In respect to the latter 
part of this question, I agree none should be so proper as themselves to pro- 
tect their own rights and privileges ; and I sincerely lament that they have, 
by their recent conduct, so far forgot what those privileges are, that they 
have added to the long list of venality from Esau to the present day. In 
regard to the first part, ' How came this doctrine to be broached ?' I must 
tell the noble lord it is as old as the constitution itself ; the liberties of the 
people, in the original distribution of government, being the first thing pro- 
vided for ; and in the case of Mr Wilkes, though we have not instances as 
numerous as in other cases, yet it is by no means the less constitutional ; 
like a comet in the firmament, which, however it may dazzle and surprise 
the vulgar and untutored, by unfrequency of its appearance, the philosopher, 
versed in astronomic science, it affects no more than any other common process 
of nature, being perfectly simple, and to him perfectly intelligible. Need I 
remind you, my lords, at this period, of that common school-boy position, that 

* A. D. 162L t A. D. 1624, 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 



51 



the constitution of this country depends upon King, Lords, and Commons — 
that each by their power are a balance to the other ? If this is not the case, 
why were the three estates constituted ? Why should it be necessary, before 
an act of Parliament takes place, that their mutual concurrence should be had ? 
My lords, I am ashamed to trudge in this common track of argument ; and 
have no apology to make, but that I have been drawn into it by the noble 
lord's asserting, 'We had no right to interfere with the privileges of the 
other House.' 

" The noble Earl has been very exact in his calculation of the proportion 
of persons who have petitioned ; and did the affair rest merely on this cal- 
culation, his argument would be unanswerable ; but will he consider what 
numbers, whose private sentiments felt all the rigour of parliamentary pro- 
ceedings, but for want of a few principals to call them together, and collect 
their opinions, have never reached the ear of their sovereign ? If we add to 
this number, the interest made use of on the side of government, to suppress 
all petitions, with the authority that placemen have necessarily over their 
dependants, it is very surprising, that out of forty counties, thirteen had 
spirit and independence sufficient to stem such a tide of venality. But I will 
suppose that this was not the case, that no undue influence was made use 
of, and that hence but one third of the people think themselves aggrieved. 
Are numbers to constitute rights ? are not the laws of the land fixed and 
unalterable ? and is not this proceeding complained of, or any other (sup- 
ported even but by one), to be tried, and adjudged by these laws ? There- 
fore, however the noble lord may excel in the doctrine of calculation as a 
speculative matter, it can by no means serve him, urged in the course of 
argument. 

" Let us not, then, my lords, be deaf to the alarms of the people, when 
these alarms are founded on the infringement of their rights. Let us not sit 
neuter and inattentive to the proceedings of the other House. We are, 
equally with that House, entrusted with the people's rights, and we cannot 
conscientiously discharge our duties without our interference, whenever we 
find those rights, in any part of the constitution, trampled on. 

" I have, my lords, trespassed on your patience at this late hour of the 
night, when the length of this debate must have fatigued your lordships 
considerably. But I cannot apologise in a case so deeply interesting to the 
nation' — no time can be too long — no time can be lost — ^no hardships can be 
complained of. 

" He condemned the conduct of the House of Commons in terms of 
asperity. He denominated the vote of that House, which had made Colonel 
Luttrel representative for Middlesex, a gross invasion of the rights of elec- 
tion — a dangerous violation of the English constitution — a treacherous sur- 
render of the invaluable privilege of a freehold, and a corrupt sacrifice of their 
own honour. They had stripped the statute book of its brightest ornaments, 
to gild the wings, not of prerogative, but of unprincipled faction and lawless 
domination. To gratify the resentments of some individuals, the laws had 



52 THE MODEEN ORATOK. 

been despised, trampled upon, and destroyed — those laws, "vvhich had been 
made by the stern virtue of their ancestors, the iron barons of old, to whom 
we were indebted for all the blessings of our present constitution ; to whose 
virtue and whose blood, to whose spirit in the hour of contest, and to whose 
tenderness in the triumph of victory, the silken barons of this day owe their 
honours and their seats, and both Houses of Parliament owe their con- 
tinuance. These measures made a part of that unhappy system, which 
had been formed in the present reign, with a view to new-model the consti- 
tution, as well as the government. These measures originated, he would 
not say, with his Majesty's knowledge, but in his Majesty's councils. The 
Commons had slavishly obeyed the commands of his Majesty's servants, and 
had thereby exhibited, and proved to the conviction of every man, what 
might have been only matter of suspicion before — that ministers held a cor- 
rupt influence in Parliament ; it was demonstrable — it was indisputable. It 
was therefore particularly necessary for their lordships, at this critical and 
alarming period, so full of jealousy and apprehension, to step forwards, and 
oppose themselves, on the one hand, to the justly incensed, and perhaps 
speedy intemperate rage of the people ; and on the other, to the criminal 
and malignant conduct of his Majesty's ministers : that they might prevent 
licentiousness on the one side, and depredation on the other. Their lord- 
ships were the constitutional barrier between the extremes of liberty and 
prerogative." 

The question being then put, that the Speaker should resume the chair, it 
was carried in the affirmative by a large majority, whereon the Earl of March- 
mont made the following motion : — " That any resolution of this House* 
directly or indirectly impeaching a judgment of the House of Commons, in 
a matter where their jurisdiction is competent, final, and conclusive, would 
be a violation of the constitutional right of the Commons, tend to make a 
breach between the two Houses of Parliament, and lead to a general con- 
fusion :" which was carried after considerable discussion. 



Speech of Lord Chatham, in support of a motion for appointing a com- 
mittee to inquire into the expenditure of the Civil List. — 16th March, 1770. 
" My Lords, 

" The Civil List was appropriated, in the first instance, to the support of 
the civil government ; and in the next, to the honour and dignity of the 
crown. In every other respect, the minute and particular expenses of the 
Civil List are as open to parliamentary examination and inquiry, in regard 
to the application and abuse, as any other grant of the people, to any other 
purpose : and ministers are equally or more culpable for incurring an un- 
provided expense, and for running in arrears this service, as for any other. 
The preambles of the Civil List acts prove this : and none but children, 
novices, or ignorants, will ever act without proper regard to them : and 
therefore, I can never consent to increase fraudulently the civil establish- 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 53 

ment, under pretence of making up deficiencies ; nor will I bid so high for 
royal favour ; and the minister who is bold enough to spend the people's 
money before it is granted (even though it were not for the purpose of cor- 
rupting their representatives), and thereby leaving the people of England no 
other alternative, but either to disgrace their Sovereign, by not paying his 
debts, or to become the prey of every unthrifty or corrupt minister — such 
minister deserves death. 

" The late good old King had something of humanity, and amongst other 
royal and manly virtues, he possessed justice, truth, and sincerity, in an emi- 
nent degree ; so that he had something about him, by which it was possible 
for you to know whether he liked you or disliked you. 

" I have been told that I have a pension, and that I have recommended 
others to pensions. It is true ; and here is a list of them : you will find 
there the names of General Amherst, Sir Edward Hawke, and several 
others of the same nature ; they were given as rewards for real services, and 
as encouragements to other gallant heroes. They were honourably earned 
in a difierent sort of campaigns than those at Westminster ; they were 
gained by actions, full of danger to themselves, of glory and benefaction to 
this nation; not by corrupt votes of baseness and destruction to their 
country. 

" You will find no secret services there, and you will find, that when the 
warrior was recompensed, the member of Parliament was left free. You 
will likewise find a pension of £1500 a year to Lord Camden. I recom- 
mended his lordship to be Chancellor ; his public and private virtues were 
acknowledged by all ; they made his station more precarious. I could not 
reasonably expect from him, that he would quit the Chief Justiceship of the 
Common Pleas, which he held for life, and put himself in the power of those 
who were not to be trusted, to be dismissed from the Chancery, perhaps the 
day after his appointment. The public has not been deceived by his 
conduct. My suspicions have been justified. His integrity has made him 
once more a poor and a private man ; he was dismissed for the vote he gave 
in favour of the right of election in the people.'* 

[Lord Chatham was here called to order, and Lord Marchmont moved that 
his words should be taken down. Lord Chatham seconded the motion, 
adding — ] 

"I neither deny, retract, nor explain these words. I do re-afiirm the 
fact, and I desire to meet the sense of the House ; I appeal to the honour of 
every lord in this House, whether he has not the same conviction." 

[Several of the lords answered to this appeal, and declared their assent. 
Lord Marchmont, however, still persisting in his motion. Lord Chatham 
proceeded : — ] 

" My words remain unretracted, unexplained, and re-affirmed. I desire to 
know whether I am condemned or acquitted ; and whether I may still 



54 THE MODERN OfiATOE. 

presume to hold up my head as high as the noble lord who moved to have 
my words taken down." 

[No answer having- been given, Lord Chatham said: — ] 

" If I am to go off acquitted, I do now declare to you there are many men 
to impeach, and many measures to arraign, for the security of this nation and 
the very existence of our laws and constitution ; and, by God's blessing, I 
will arraign and impeach them." 

[His lordship was reproached for having recommended the Duke of 
Grafton, and that he had pushed the duke forw^ard and forced him on 
the King as his first minister ; to which he replied, " That he had, indeed, 
recommended him for the treasury, but he never could be supposed to have 
thought of that boy at the first minister of a great nation." 

He proceeded : — ] 

" I advised his Majesty to take the Duke of Grafton as first lord of the 
treasury, but there is such a thing as time as well as tide ; and the conduct 
of the noble duke has convinced me, that I am as likely to be deceived as 
any other man, and as fallible as my betters. It was an expression of that 
great minister Sir R. Walpole, upon a debate on the army in the year 1737, 
' Those who gave the power of blood gave blood.' I will beg leave to paro- 
dize the expression, and say, those who gave the means of corruption, gave 
corruption. / will trust no sovereign in the world ivith the memis of purchasing 
the liberties of the people. When I had the honour of being the confidential 
keeper of the King's intention, he assured me, that he never intended to exceed 
the allowance which was made by Parliament ; and therefore, my lords, at a 
time when there are no marks of personal dissipation in our King, at a time 
when there are no marks of any considerable sums having been expended to 
procure the secrets of our enemies ; that a request of an inquiry into the 
expenditure of the Civil List should be refused, is to me most extraordinary. 
Does the King of England want to build a palace equal to his rank and 
dignity ? Does he want to encourage the polite and useful arts ? Does he 
mean to reward the hardy veteran, who has defended his quarrel in many a 
rough campaign, whose salary does not equal that of some of your servants? 
Or does he mean, by drawing the purse-strings of his subjects, to spread 
corruption through the people, to procure a Parliament, like a packed jury, 
ready to acquit his ministers at all adventures ? I do not say, my lords, that 
corruption lies here, or that corruption lies there ; but if any gentlemen in 
England were to ask me, whether I thought both Houses of Parliament were 
bribed, / should laugh in his face, and say, 'Sir, it is not so.' Therefore, 
my lords, from all that has been said, I think it must appear, that an inquiry 
into the Civil List is expedient, proper, and just; a refusal of it at this time 
will not add dignity to disgrace, but will only serve to convince the people 
that we are governed by a set of abjects who possess the peculiar talent of 
making even calamity ridiculous." 
The motion was lost. 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 5o 

Speech in support of a motion by the Duke of Richmond on the 22nd of 
November, 1770, for production of all correspondence and papers received 
by ministers between the 12th of September, 1769, and 12th of September, 
1770, containing any intelligence of hostilities either commenced or intended 
by Spain against any of his Majesty's dominions, and the times when such 
intelligence was received. 

The circumstances which gave rise to this motion were these : — The Falk- 
land Islands had been in the possession of the English since January, 1765 ; 
but, in 1770, the Spanish government suddenly sent a force from Buenos 
Ayres against Port Egmont, which, as the British were not in a position to 
offer any effectual resistance, was surrendered. To delay early intelligence 
arriving in England, the Spanish commodore unshipped the rudder of the 
vessel of Captain Farmer, the British commandant, and kept it on shore for 
twenty days. 

Instead of resenting such conduct, the English government appear to have 
remained perfectly quiet from the 3rd of June, when intelligence arrived, till 
the 12th of September, 1770, when orders were given for fitting out a fleet ; 
but nothing decisive was done betw^een that time and the motion of the 
Duke of Richmond, Government merely stating that negotiations were still 
depending. 

Ultimately Spain disavowed the proceedings of the governor of Buenos 
Ayi-es, and restored the settlement, but upon an understanding, between the 
two governments, that after a short period the English were to abandon it. 

The motion was opposed by Lord Weymouth, the Secretary of State, 
after which Lord Chatham addressed the House thus : — 

" I rise to give my hearty assent to the motion made by the noble duke : 
by his Grace's favour, I have been permitted to see it before it w^as offered 
to the House. I have fully considered the necessity of obtaining from the 
King's servants a communication of the papers described in the motion, and 
I am persuaded that the alarming state of facts, as well as the strength of 
reasoning, with which the noble duke has urged and enforced that necessity, 
must have been powerfully felt by your lordships. What I mean to say, 
upon this occasion, may seem, perhaps, to extend beyond the limits of the 
motion before us. But I flatter myself, my lords, that if I am honoured with 
your attention, it will appear that the meaning and object of this question 
are naturally connected with considerations of the most extensive, national 
importance. For entering into such considerations, no season is improper — 
no occasion should be neglected. Something must be done, my lords, and 
immediately, to save an injured, insulted, undone country ; if not to save 
the state, my lords, at least to mark out, and drag to public justice those 
servants of the Crown, by whose ignorance, neglect, or treachery, this once 
great flourishing people are reduced to a condition as deplorable at home, as 
it is despicable abroad. Examples are wanted, my lords, and should be 
given to the world, for the instruction of future times, even though they be 
useless to ourselves. I do not mean, my lords, nor is it intended by the 



56 THE MODEEN OEATOK. 

motion, to impede or embarrass a negotiation, which we have been told is 
now in a prosperous train, and promises a happy conclusion." 

Lord Weymouth : — "I beg pardon for interrupting the noble lord, but I 
think it necessary to remark to your lordships, that I have not said a single 
word tending to convey to your lordships any information, or opinion, with 
regard to the state or progress of the negotiation — I did, with the utmost 
caution, avoid giving to your lordships the least intimation upon that matter." 

Earl of Chatham — " I perfectly agree with the noble lord. I did not 
mean to refer to anything said by his lordship. He expressed himself, as 
he always does, with moderation and reserve, and with the greatest pro- 
priety ; it was another noble lord, very high in office, who told us he under- 
stood that the negotiation was in a favourable train." 

Earl of HiLLSBOKouGH — " I did not make use of the word train. I know 
the meaning of the word too well. In the language from which it was 
derived, it signifies protraction and delay, which I could never mean to apply 
to the present negotiation." 

Earl of Chatham — " This is the second time that I have been interrupted. 
I submit it to your lordships whether this be fair and candid treatment. I 
am sure it is contrary to the orders of the House, and a gross violation of 
decency and politeness. I listen to every noble lord in this House with 
attention and respect. The noble lord's design in interrupting me, is as 
mean and unworthy, as the manner in which he has done it is irregular and 
disorderly. He flatters himself that, by breaking the thread of my discourse, 
he shall confuse me in my argument. But, my lord, I will not submit to 
this treatment. I will not be interrupted. When I have concluded, let him 
answer me if he can. As to the word which he has denied, I still affirm 
that it was the word he made use of; but if he had used any other, I am 
sure every noble lord will agree with me, that his meaning was exactly what 
I had expressed it. Whether he said 'course' or 'train' is indifferent; — ^he told 
your lordships that the negotiation was in a way that promised a happy and 
honourable conclusion. His distinctions are mean, frivolous, and puerile. My 
lords, I do not understand the exalted tone assumed by that noble lord. In the 
distress and weakness of this country, my lords, and conscious as the ministry 
ought to be how much they have contributed to that distress and weakness, 
I think a tone of modesty, of submission, of humility, would become them 
better ; qucedam causes modestiam desiderant. Before this country they stand 
as the greatest criminals. Such I shall prove them to be ; for I do not doubt 
of proving, to your lordships' satisfaction, that since they have been entrusted 
with the conduct of the King's affairs, they have done everything that they 
ought not to have done, and hardly anything that they ought to have done. 
The noble lord talks of Spanish punctilios in the lofty style and idiom of a 
Spaniard. We are to be wonderfully tender of the Spanish point of honour, 
as if they had been the complainants, as if they had received the injury. I 
think he would have done better to have told us, what care had been taken 
of the English honour. My lords, I am well acquainted with the character 



THE EAEL OF CHATHAM. 57 

of that nation, at least as far as it is represented by their court and ministry, 
and should think this country dishonoured by a comparison of the English 
good faith with the punctilios of a Spaniard. My lords, the English are a 
candid, an ingenuous people ; the Spaniards are as mean and crafty, as they 
are proud and insolent. The integrity of the English merchant, the generous 
spirit of our naval and military officers, would be degraded by a comparison 
with their merchants or officers. With their ministers I have often been 
obliged to negotiate, and never met with an instance of candour or dignity 
in their proceedings ; nothing but low cunning, trick, and artifice. After a 
long experience of their want of candour and good faith, I found myself 
compelled to talk to them in a peremptory, decisive language. On this 
principle I submitted my advice to a trembling council for an immediate 
declaration of a war with Spain. Your lordships well know what were the 
consequences of not following that advice. Since, however, for reasons un- 
known to me, it has been thought advisable to negotiate with the court of 
Spain, I should have conceived that the great and single object of such a 
negotiation would have been, to have obtained complete satisfaction for the 
injury done to the crown and people of England. But, if I understand the 
noble lord, the only object of the present negotiation is to find a salvo for 
the punctilious honour of the Spaniards. The absurdity of such an idea is of 
itself insupportable. But, my lords, I object to our negotiating at all, in our 
present circumstances. We are not in that situation in which a great and 
powerful nation is permitted to negotiate. A foreign power has forcibly 
robbed his Majesty of a part of his dominions. Is the island restored ? Are 
you replaced in statu quo? If that had been done, it might then, perhaps, 
have been justifiable to treat with the aggressor upon the satisfaction he 
ought to make for the insult offered to the crown of England. But will you 
descend so low ? Will you so shamefully betray the King's honour, as to 
make it matter of negotiation whether his Majesty's possessions shall 
be restored to him or not ? I doubt not, my lords, that there are some 
important mysteries in the conduct of this affair, which, whenever they are 
explained, will account for the profound silence now observed by the King's 
servants. The time will come, my lords, when they shall be dragged from 
their concealments. There are some questions, which, sooner or later, 
must be answered. The ministry, I find, without declaring themselves ex- 
plicitly, have taken pains to possess the public \vith an opinion, that the 
Spanish court have constantly disavowed the proceedings of their governor ; 
and some persons, I see, have been shameless and daring enough to advise 
his Majesty to support and countenance this opinion in his speech from the 
throne. Certainly, my lords, there never was a more odious, a more infamous 
falsehood imposed on a great nation ; it degrades the King's honour — it is 
an insult to Parliament. His Majesty has been advised to confirm and give 
currency to an absolute falsehood. I beg your lordships' attention, and I 
hope I shall be understood, when I repeat, that the court of Spain's having 
disavowed the act of their governor is an absolute, a palpable falsehood. 



58 THE MODERX OEATOE. 

Let me ask, my lords, when the first communication was made by the court 
of Madrid, of their being apprised of their taking of Falkland's Islands, was 
it accompanied with an offer of instant restitution, of immediate satisfaction, 
and the punishment of the Spanish governor ? If it was not, they have 
adopted the act as their own, and the very mention of a disavowal is an im- 
pudent insult offered to the King's dignity. The king of Spain disowns the 
thief, while he leaves him unpunished, and profits by the theft ; in vulgar 
English, he is the receiver of stolen goods, and ought to be treated accord- 
ingly. 

" If your lordships will look back to a period of the English history, in 
which the circumstances are reversed, in which the Spaniards were the com- 
plainants, you will see how differently they succeeded : you will see one of 
the ablest men, one of the bravest officers this or any other country ever 
produced (it is hardly necessary to mention the name of Sir Walter Raleigh), 
sacrificed by the meanest prince that ever sat upon the throne, to the vin- 
dictive jealousy of that haughty court. James the First was base enough, 
at the instance of Gondomar, to suffer a sentence against Sir Walter Raleigh, 
for another supposed offence, to be carried into execution almost twelve years 
after it had been passed. This was the pretence. His real crime was. that 
he had mortally offended the Spaniards, while he acted by the King's express 
orders, and under his commission.* 

" My lords, the pretended disavowal by the court of Spain is as ridiculous 
as it is false. If your lordships want any other proof, call for your own 
officers, who were stationed at Falkland Island. Ask the officer who com- 
manded the garrison, whether, when he was summoned to surrender, the 
demand was made in the name of the governor of Buenos Ayres, or of his 
catholic Majesty ? Was the island said to belong to Don Francisco Bucarelli, 
or to the king of Spain ? If I am not mistaken, we have been in possession 
of these islands since the year 1764, or 1765. Will the ministry assert that, 
in all that time, the Spanish court have never once claimed them ? that their 
right to them has never been urged, or mentioned to our ministry ? If it has, 
the act of the governor of Buenos Ayres is plainly the consequence of our 
refusal to acknowledge and submit to the Spanish claims. For five years 
they negotiate ; when that fails, they take the island by force. If that mea- 
sure had arisen out of the general instructions constantly given to the 
governor of Buenos Ayres, why should the execution of it have been deferred 
so long ? 

" My lords, if the falsehood of this pretended disavowal had been confined 
to the court of Spain, I should have admitted it without concern. I should 

* Lord Chatham does not appear to be justified in making this remark, for Raleigh's 
commission empowered him to settle only on a coast possessed by savages ; and when 
Gondomar, the Spanish ambassador, complained to the King of the warlike appearance 
of the expedition, Raleigh protested the innocence of his intentions ; and King James 
" assured Gondomar that he durst not form any hostile attempt, but should pay with 
his head for so audacious an enterprise." " 



THE EAEL OF CHATHAM. 59 

have been content that they themselves had left a door open for excuse and 
accommodation. The king of England's honour is not touched till he adopts 
the falsehood, delivers it to his Parliament, and makes it his own. I cannot 
quit this subject without comparing the conduct of the present ministry with 
that of a gentleman (Mr George Grenville) who is now no more. The 
occasions were similar. The French had taken a little island from us called 
Turk's Island.^' The minister then at the head of the treasury took the 
business upon himself ; but he did not negotiate : he sent for the French 
ambassador, and made a peremptory demand. A courier was despatched to 
Paris, and returned in a few days, with orders for instant restitution, not 
only of the island, but of everything that the English subjects had lost. 

" Such, then, my lords, are the circumstances of our difference with Spain ; 
and, in this situation, we are told that a negotiation has been entered into ; 
that this negotiation, which must have commenced near three months ago, is 
still depending, and that any insight into the actual state of it will impede 
the conclusion. My lords, I am not, for my own part, very anxious to draw 
from the ministry the information which they take so much care to conceal 
from us. I very well know where this honourable negotiation ivill end ; 
where it must end. We may, perhaps, be able to patch up an accommodation 
for the present, but we shall have a Spanish war in six months. Some 
of your lordships may, perhaps, remember the convention. For several 
successive years our merchants had been plundered — no protection given 
them — no redress obtained for them; during all that time we were con- 
tented to complain, and to negotiate ; the court of Madrid were then as 
ready to disown their officers, and as unwilling to punish them, as they are 
at present. Whatever violence happened was always laid to the charge of 
one or other of their West India governors. To-day it was the Governor of 
Cuba, to-morrow of Porto Rico,Carthagena, or Porto Bello. If, in a particular 
instance, redress was promised, how was that promise kept ? The merchant, 
who had been robbed of his property, was sent to the West Indies, to get it, 
if he could, out of an empty chest. At last the convention was made ; but, 
though approved by a majority of both Houses, was received by the nation 
with universal discontent. I myself heard that wise man (Sir Robert Wal- 
pole) say, in the House of Commons, ' 'Tis true we have got a convention 
and a vote of Parliament ; but what signifies it ? we shall have a Spanish war 
upon the back of our convention.' Here, my lords, I cannot help mentioning 
a very striking observation made to me by a noble lord (the late Lord 
Granville), since dead. His abilities did honour to this House, and to this 
nation. In the upper departments of government he had not his equal ; 
and I feel a pride in declaring, that to his patronage, to his friendship and 
instruction, I owe whatever I am. This great man has often observed to me 
that, in all the negotiations which preceded the convention, our ministers 
never found out that there was no ground or subject for any negotiation ; 
that the Spaniards had not a right to search our ships, and when they 

* A,D. 1764. 



CO THE MODERN ORATOE. 

attempted to regulate that right by treaty, they were regulating a thing 
which did not exist. This I take to be something like the case of the 
ministry. The Spaniards have seized an island they have no right to, and 
his Majesty's servants make it matter of negotiation, whether his dominions 
shall be restored to him, or not. 

" From what, I have said, my lords, I do not doubt but it will be under- 
stood by many lords, and given out to the public, that I am for hurrying the 
nation, at all events, into a war with Spain. My lords, I disclaim such 
counsels, and I beg that this declaration may be remembered — Let us have 
peace, my lords, but let it be honourable, let it be secure. A patched-up 
peace will not do. It will not satisfy the nation, though it may be approved 
of by Parliament. I distinguish widely between a solid peace, and the dis- 
graceful expedients by which a war may be deferred, but cannot be avoided. 
I am as tender of the effusion of human blood, as the noble lord who dwelt 
so long upon the miseries of war. If the bloody politics of some noble lords 
had been followed, England, and every quarter of his Majesty's dominions, 
had been glutted with blood — the blood of our own countrymen. 

" My lords, I have better reasons, perhaps, than many of your lordships 
for desiring peace upon the terms I have described. I know the strength 
and preparation of the house of Bourbon ; I know the defenceless, unpre- 
pared condition of this country. I know not by what mismanagement we are 
reduced to this situation ; and when I consider who are the men by whom 
a war, in the outset at least, must be conducted, can I but wish for peace } 
Let them not screen themselves behind the want of intelligence — they had 
intelligence : I know they had. If they had not, they are criminal ; and 
their excuse is their crime. But I will tell these young ministers the true 
source of intelligence. It is sagacity: sagacity to compare causes and 
effects ; to judge of the present state of things, and discern the future by a 
careful review of the past. Oliver Cromwell, who astonished mankind 
by his intelligence, did not derive it from spies in the cabinet of every prince 
in Europe : he drew it from the cabinet of his own sagacious mind. He 
observed facts and traced them forward to their consequences. From what 
was, he concluded what must be, and he never was deceived. In the present 
situation of affairs, I think it would be treachery to the nation to conceal 
from them their real circumstances; and with respect to a foreign enemy, I 
know that all concealments are vain and useless. They are as well acquainted 
with the actual force and weakness of this country, as any of the King's 
servants. This is no time for silence, or reserve. I charge the ministers 
with the highest crimes that men in their stations can be guilty of. I charge 
them with having destroyed all content and unanimity at home, by a series 
of oppressive, unconstitutional measures; and with having betrayed and 
delivered up the nation defenceless to a foreign enemy. 

Their utmost vigour has reached no farther than to a fruitless, protracted 
negotiation. When they should have acted, they have contented themselves 
^vith talking ' about it, Goddess, and about it.' If we do not stand 



THE EARL OE CHATHAM. 61 

forth, and do our duty in the j^resent crisis, the nation is irretrievably undone. 
I despise the little policy of concealments. You ought to know the whole of 
your situation. If the information be ncAV to the ministry, let them take 
care to profit by it. I mean to rouse, to alarm the whole nation — to rouse 
the ministry, if possible, who seem awake to nothing but the preservation of 
their places — to awaken the King. 

" Early in the last spring, a motion was made in Parliament, for inquiring 
into the state of the navy, and an augmentation of six thousand seamen was 
offered to the ministry. They refused to give us any insight into the condi- 
tion of the navy, and rejected the augmentation. Early in June they received 
advice of a commencement of hostilities by a Spanish armament which had 
warned the King's garrison to quit an island belonging to his Majesty. From 
that to the 12th of September, as if nothing had happened, they lay dormant. 
Not a man was raised, not a single ship put into commission. From the 12th 
of September, Avhen they heard of the first blow being actually struck, we 
are to date the beginning of their preparations for defence. Let us now in- 
quire, my lords, what expedition they have used, what vigour they have ex- 
erted. We have heard wonders of the diligence employed in impressing, of 
the large bounties offered, and the number of ships put into commission. 
These have been, for some time past, the constant topics of ministerial boast 
and triumph. Without regarding the description, let us look to the sub- 
stance. I tell your lordships that, with all this vigour and expedition, they 
have not, in a period of considerably more than two months, raised ten 
thousand seamen. I mention that number, meaning to speak largely, though, 
in my own breast, I am convinced that the number does not exceed eight 
thousand. But it is said they have ordered forty ships of the line into com- 
mission. My lords, upon this subject I can speak mth knowledge — I have 
been conversant in these matters, and di'aw my information from the greatest 
and most respectable naval authority that ever existed in this country — I 
mean the late Lord Anson. The merits of that great man are not so uni- 
versally known, nor his memory so warmly respected, as he deserved. To his 
wisdom, to his experience and care, (and I speak it with pleasure,) the na- 
tion owes the glorious naval successes of the last war. The state of facts 
laid before Parliament in the year 1756, so entirely convinced me of the in- 
justice done to his character, that in spite of the popular clamours raised 
agamst him, in direct opposition to the complaints of the merchants, and of 
the whole city (whose favour I am supposed to court upon all occasions), I 
replaced him at the head of the Admiralty : and I thank God that I had 
resolution enough to do so. Listructed by this great seaman, I do affirm, 
that forty ships of the line, with their necessary attendant frigates, to be 
properly manned, require forty thousand seamen. If your lordships are sur- 
prised at this assertion, you will be more so, when I assure you that in the 
last war this country maintained eighty -five thousand seamen, and employed 
them all. Now, my lords, the peace establishment of your navy, supposing it 
complete and effective (which, by the bye, ought to be known), is sixteen 



62 THE MODEKN OBATOR. 

thousand men. Add to these the number newly raised, and you have about 
twenty-five thousand men to man your fleet, I shall come presently to the 
application of this force, such as it is, and compare it with the services which 
I know are indispensable. But first, my lords, let us have done with the 
boasted vigour of the ministry. Let us hear no more of their activity. If your 
lordships will recall to your minds the state of this country when Mahon 
was taken, and compare what was done by government at that time, with 
the efibrts now made in very similar circumstances, you will be able to de- 
termine what praise is due to the vigorous operations of the present ministry. 
Upon the first intelligence of the invasion of Minorca, a great fleet was 
equipped, and sent out ; and near double the number of seamen collected 
in half the time taken to fit out the present force, which, pitiful as it is, is 
not yet, if the occasion were ever so pressing, in a condition to go to sea. 
Consult the returns which were laid before Parliament in the year 1756. I 
was one of those who urged a parliamentary inquiry into the conduct of the 
ministry. That ministry, my lords, in the midst of universal censure and 
reproach, had honour and virtue enough to promote the inquiry themselves. 
They scorned to evade it by the mean expedient of putting a previous 
jjuestion.* Upon the strictest inquiry it appeared, that the diligence they 
had used in sending a squadron to the Mediterranean, and in their other 
naval preparations, was beyond all example. 

*'My lords, the subject on which I am speaking seems to call upon me, and 
I willingly take this occasion to declare my opinion upon a question on 
which much wicked pains have been employed to disturb the minds of the 
people, and to distress government. My opinion may not be very popular ; 
neither am I running the race of popularity. I am myself clearly convinced, 
and I believe every man who knows anything of the English navy will 
acknowledge, that without impressing, it is impossible to equip a respectable 
fleet within the time in which such armaments are usually wanted. If this 
fact be admitted, and if the necessity of arming upon a sudden em.ergenc)^ 
should appear incontrovertible, what shall we think of those men, who, in the 
moment of danger, would stop the great defence of their country? Upon 
whatever principle they may act, the act itself is more than faction — it is 
labouring to cut off" the right hand of the community. I wholly condemn 
their conduct, and am ready to support any motion that may be made, for 
bringing those aldermen, who have endeavoured to stop the execution of the 
Admiralty warrants, to the bar of this House. My lords, I do not rest my 
opinion merely upon necessity. I am satisfied that the power of impressing 
is founded upon uninterrupted usage. It is the consuetudo regni, and part 
of the common-law prerogative of the Crown. When I condemn the 
proceedings of some persons upon this occasion, let me do justice to a man 
whose character and conduct have been infamously traduced ; I mean the 
late lord mayor, Mr Trecothick. In the midst of reproach and clamour, he 

* Lord Weymouth had concluded by moving the previous question. 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 63 

had firmness enough to persevere in doing his duty. I do not know in office 
a more upright magistrate ; nor, in private life, a worthier man. 

"Permit me now, my lords, to state to your lordships the extent and 
variety of the service which must be provided for, and to compare them with 
our apparent resources. A due attention to, and provision for these services, 
is prudence in time of peace ; in war it is necessity. Preventive policy, my 
lords, which obviates or avoids the injury, is far preferable to that vindictive 
policy which aims at reparation, or has no object but revenge. The 
precaution that meets the disorder is cheap and easy ; the remedy which 
follows it, bloody and expensive. The first great and acknowledged object 
of national defence, in this country, is to maintain such a superior naval force 
at home, that even the united fleets of France and Spain may never be mas- 
ters of the Channel. If that should ever happen, what is there to hinder 
their landing in Ireland, or even upon our own coast? They have often 
made the attempt: in King William's time it succeeded. King James 
embarked on board a French fleet, and landed with a French army in Ireland. 
In the mean time the French were masters of the Chanriel, and continued so 
until their fleet was destroyed by Admiral Russel. As to the probable 
consequences of a foreign army landing either in Great Britain or Ireland, I 
shall ofier your lordships my opinion when I speak of the actual condition of 
our standing army. 

" The second naval object with an English minister, should be to maintain 
at all times a powerful western squadron. In the profoundest peace it should 
be respectable ; in war should be formidable. Without it, the colonies, the 
commerce, the navigation of Great Britain, lie at the mercy of the House of 
Bourbon. While / had the honour of acting with Lord Anson, that able 
ofiicer never ceased to inculcate upon the minds of his Majesty's servants the 
necessity of constantly maintaining a strong western squadron ; and I must 
vouch for him, that while he was at the head of the marine it was never 
neglected. 

"The third object, indispensable, as I conceive, in the distribution of our 
navy, is to maintain such a force in the Bay of Gibraltar as may be sufficient 
to cover that garrison, to watch the motions of the Spaniards, and to keep 
open the communication with Minorca. The ministry will not betray such 
want of information as to dispute the truth of any of these propositions. 
But how will your lordships be astonished, when I inform you in what man- 
ner they have provided for these great, these essential objects ! As to the 
first, I mean the defence of the Channel, I take upon myself to aiiirm to your 
lordships, that at this hour (and I beg that the date may be taken down 
and observed) we cannot send out eleven ships of the line so manned and 
equipped that any officer of rank and credit in the service shall accept of the 
command and stake his reputation upon it. We have one ship of the line at 
Jamaica, one at the Leeward Islands, and one at Gibraltar ; yet, at this very 
moment, for aught the ministry know, both Jamaica and Gibraltar may be 
attacked; and if they axe eittacked (which God forbid) they must fell. 



64 THE MODEEN ORATOE. 

Nothing can prevent it but the appearance of a superior squadron. It is 
true that, some two months ago, four ships of the line were ordered from 
Portsmouth, and one from Plymouth, to carry a relief from Ireland to 
Gibraltar. These ships, my lords, a week ago, were still in port. If, upon 
their arrival at Gibraltar, they should find the Bay possessed by a superior 
squadron, the relief cannot be landed: and if it could be landed, of what force 
do your lordships think it consists ? Two regiments, of four hundred men 
each, at a time like this, are sent to secure a place of such importance as 
Gibraltar! a place which it is universally agreed cannot hold against a 
vigorous attack from the sea, if once the enemy should be so far masters of 
the Bay as to make good a landing even with a moderate force. The in- 
dispensable service of the lines requires at least four thousand men. The 
present garrison consists of about two thousand three hundred ; so that, if 
the relief should be fortunate enough to get on shore, they will want eight 
hundred men of their necessary complement. 

*' Let us now, my lords, turn our eyes homewards. When the defence of 
Great Britain or Ireland is in question, it is no longer a point of honour ; it 
is not the security of foreign commerce, or foreign possessions : we are to 
contend for the very being of the state. I have good authority to assure 
your lordships that the Spaniards have now a fleet at Ferrol, completely 
manned and ready to sail, which we are in no condition to meet. We could 
not this day send out eleven ships of the line properly equipped, and 
to-morrow the enemy may be masters of the Channel. It is unnecessary to 
press the consequences of these facts upon your lordships' minds. If the 
enemy were to land in full force, either upon this coast or in Ireland, where 
is your army ? where is your defence ? My lords, if the House of Bourbon 
make a wise and vigorous use of the actual advantages they have over us, it 
is more than probable that on this day month we may not be a nation. 
What military force can the ministry show to answer any sudden demand ? 
I do not speak of foreign expeditions, or offensive operations. I speak of the 
interior defence of Ireland, and of this country. You have a nominal army of 
seventy battalions, besides guards and cavalry. But what is the establishment 
of these battalions ? Supposing they were complete to the numbers allowed 
(which I know they are not) each regiment would consist of something less 
than four hundred men, rank and file. Are these battalions complete ? 
Have any orders been given for an augmentation, or do the ministry mean to 
continue them upon their present low establishment ? When America, the 
West Indies, Gibraltar, and Minorca, are taken care of, consider, my lords, 
what part of this army will remain to defend Ireland and Great Britain ? 
This subject, my lords, leads me to considerations of foreign policy and 
foreign alliance. It is more connected with them than your lordships may 
at first imagine. When I compare the numbers of our people, estimated 
highly at seven millions, with the population of France and Spain, usually 
computed at twenty-five millions, I see a clear, self-evident impossibility for 
this country to contend with the united power of the House of Bourbon, 



THE ElEL OF CHATHAM. 65 

merely upon the strength of its own resources. They who talk of confining 
a great war to naval operations only, speak without knowledge or experience. 
"We can no more command the disposition than the events of a war. Wher- 
ever we are attacked, there we must defend. 

*' I have been much abused, my lords, for supporting a war, which it has 
been the fashion to call my German war. But I can affirm, with a clear 
conscience, that that abuse has been thrown upon me by men who were 
either unacquainted with facts, or had an interest in misrepresenting them. 
I shall speak plainly and frankly to your lordships upon this, as I do upon 
every occasion. That I did in Parliament oppose, to the utmost of my 
power, our engaging in a German war, is most true ; and if the same cir- 
cumstance were to recur, I would act the same part, and oppose it again. 
But when I was called upon to take a share in the administration, that 
measure was already decided. Before I was appointed Secretary of State, 
the first treaty with the King of Prussia was signed, and not only ratified by 
the Crovm, but approved of and confirmed by a resolution of both Houses of 
Parliament. It was a weight fastened upon my neck. By that treaty, the 
honour of the Crown and the honour of our nation were equally engaged. 
How I could recede from such an engagement ; how I could advise the 
Crown to desert a great prince in the midst of those difficulties in which a 
reliance upon the good faith of this country had contributed to involve him, 
are questions I willingly submit to your lordships' candour. That wonderful 
man* might, perhaps, have extricated himself from his difficulties without our 
assistance. He has talents which, in everything that touches the human 
capacity, do honour to the human mind. But how would England have 
supported that reputation of credit and good faith, by which we have been 
distinguished in Europe ? What other foreign power would have sought our 
friendship ? What other foreign power would have accepted of an alliance 
with us ? 

" But, my lords, though I wholly condemn our entering into any engage- 
ments which tend to involve us in a continental war, I do not admit that 
alliances with some of the German princes are either detrimental or useless. 
They may be, my lords, not only useful, but necessary. I hope, indeed, I 
shall never see an army of foreign auxiliaries in Great Britain : we do 
not want it. If our people are united; if they are attached to the King, and 
place a confidence in his government, we have an internal strength sufficient 
to repel any foreign invasion. With respect to Ireland, my lords, I am not 
of the same opinion. If a powerful foreign army were landed in that kingdom, 
with arms ready to be put into the hands of the Roman Catholics, I declare 
freely to your lordships, that I should heartily wish it were possible to collect 
twenty thousand German protestants, whether from Hesse or Brunswick, or 
Wolfenbottel, or even the unpopular Hanoverian, and land them in Ireland; 
I wish it, my lords, because I am convinced that, whenever the case happens, 
we shall have no English army to spare. 

* Frederick the Great. 



C6 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

*'I have taken a wide circuit, my lords; and trespassed, I tear, too 
long upon your lordships' patience. Yet I cannot conclude without 
endeavouring to bring home your thoughts to an object more immediately 
interesting to us than any I have yet considered ; I mean the internal 
condition of this country. We may look abroad for wealth, or triumphs, or 
luxury ; but England, my lords, is the main stay, the last resort of the Avhole 
empire. To this point every scheme of policy, whether foreign or domestic, 
should ultimately refer. Have any measures been taken to satisfy or to imite 
the people ? Are the grievances they have so long complained of removed ? 
or do they stand not only unredressed, but aggravated ? Is the right of free 
election restored to the elective body ? My lords, I myself am one of the 
people. I esteem that security and independence, which is the original 
birthright of an Englishman, far beyond the privileges, however splendid, 
v/hich are annexed to the peerage. I myself am by birth an English elector, 
and join with the freeholders of England as in a common cause. Believe me, 
my lords, we mistake our real interest as much as our duty, when we separate 
ourselves from the mass of the people. Can it be expected that Englishmen 
will unite heartily in defence of a government, by which they feel themselves 
insulted and oppressed ? Restore them to their rights ; that is the true way 
to make them unanimous. It is not a ceremonious recommendation from the 
throne, that can bring back peace and harmony to a discontented people. 
That insipid annual opiate has been administered so long, that it has lost its 
effect. Something substantial, something effectual must be done. 

" The public credit of the nation stands next in degree to the rights of the 
constitution ; it calls loudly for the interposition of Parliament. There is a 
set of men, my lords, in the city of London, who are known to live in riot 
and luxury, upon the plunder of the ignorant, the innocent, the helpless — 
upon that part of the community which stands most in need of, and best 
deserves the care and protection of the legislature. To me, my lords, 
whether they be miserable jobbers of 'Change alley, or the lofty Asiatic 
plunderers of Leadenhall-street, they are all equally detestable. I care but 
little whether a man walks on foot, or is drawn by eight horses or six horses ; 
if his luxury be supported by the plunder of his country, I despise and detest 
him. My lords, while I had the honour of serving his Majesty, I never ven- 
tured to look at the Treasury but at a distance ; it is a business I am unfit for, 
and to which I never could have submitted. The little I know of it has not 
served to raise my opinion of whatis vulgarly called the moniecl inter e'it ; I mean 
that bloodsucker, that muckworm, which calls itself the friend of government — 
that pretends to serve this or that administration, and may be purchased, on 
the same terms, by any administration — that advances money to government, 
and takes special care of its own emoluments. Under this description I 
include the whole race of commissaries, jobbers, contractors, clothiers, and 
temitters. Yet I do not deny that even with these creatures some manage-^ 
ment may be necessary. I hope, my lords, that nothing I have said will be 
understood to extend to the honest, industrious tradesman, who holds th^ 



THE EABL OF CHATHAM. 67 

middle rank, and has given repeated proofs that he jDrefers law and liberty to 
gold. I love that class of men. Much less would I be thought to reflect upon 
the fair merchant, whose liberal commerce is the prime source of national 
wealth. I esteem his occupation, and respect his character. 

" My lords, if the general representation which I have had the honour to 
lay before you of the situation of public affairs, has, in any measure, engaged 
your attention, your lordships, I am sure, will agree with me, that the 
season calls for more than common prudence and vigour in the direction of 
our councils. The difficulty of the crisis demands a wise, a firm, and a 
popular administration. The dishonourable traffic of places has engaged us 
too long. Upon this subject, my lords, I speak without interest or enmity. 
I have no j)ersonal objection to any of the King's servants. I shall never be 
minister ; certainly not Avithout full power to cut away all the rotten branches 
of Government. Yet, unconcerned as I truly am for myself, I cannot avoid 
seeing some caj)ital errors in the distribution of the royal favour. There are 
men, my lords, who, if their own services were forgotten, ought to have an 
hereditary merit with the House of Hanover ; whose ancestors stood forth 
in the day of trouble, opposed their persons and fortunes to treachery and 
rebellion, and secured to his Majesty's family this sjDlendid power of reward- 
ing. There are other men, my lords,-'' who, to speak tenderly of them, 
were not quite so forward in the demonstrations of their zeal to the reigning 
family ; there was another cause, my lords, and a partiality to it, which 
some persons had not, at all times, discretion enough to conceal. I know I 
shall be accused of attempting to revive distinctions. My lords, if it were 
possible, I would abolish all distinctions. I would not wish the favours of 
the Crown to flow invariably in one channel. But there are some distinc- 
tions which are inherent in the nature of things. There is a distinction 
between right and wrong, — between whig and tory. 

" When I speak of an administration, such as the necessity of the season 
calls for, my views are large and comprehensive. — It must be popular, that 
it may begin with reputation. — It must be strong within itself, that it may 
proceed with vigour and decision. An administration formed upon an 
exclusive system of family connexions, or private friendships, cannot, I am 
convinced, be long supported in this country. Yet, my lords, no man 
respects or values more than I do, that honourable connexion which arises 
from a disinterested concurrence in opinion upon public measures, or from the 
sacred bond of private friendship and esteem. What I mican is, that no single 
man's private friendships or connexions, however extensive, are sufficient of 
themselves, either to form or overturn an administration. With respect to 
the ministry, I believe they have fewer rivals than they imagine. No 
prudent man will covet a situation so beset with difficulty and danger. 

" I shall trouble your lordships with but a few words more. His Majesty 
tells us in his speech, that he will call upon us for our advice, if it should be 
necessary in the farther progress of this affair. It is not easy to say whether 

^- His lordship here looked at Lord Mansfield, 



68 THE MODEEN OEATOE, 

or no the ministry are serious in this declaration ; nor what is meant by the 
progress of an affair which rests upon one fixed point. Hitherto we have 
not been called upon. But, though we are not consulted, it is our right and 
duty as the King's great hereditary Council to offer him our advice. The 
papers mentioned in the noble duke's motion, will enable us to form a just 
and accurate opinion of the conduct of his Majesty's servants, though not of 
the actual state of their honourable negotiations. The ministry, too, seem 
to want advice upon some points, in which their o^^^ii safety is immediately 
concerned. They are now balancing between a war which they ought to 
have foreseen, but for which they have made no provision, and an ignomi- 
nious compromise. Let me warn them of their danger. If they are forced 
into a war, they stand it at the hazard of their heads. If, by an ignominious 
com_promise, they should stain the honour of the Crovv'n, or sacrifice the 
rights of the people, let them look to their consciences, and consider whether 
they will be able to walk the streets in safety." 
The motion was lost. 



Speech of Lord Chatham, on the 27th May, 1774, in opposition to a bill 
for quartering troops in America. 
"My Lords, 

" The unfavourable state of health under which I have long laboured, 
could not prevent me from lapng before your lordships my thoughts on 
the bill now upon the table, and on the American affairs in general. 

" If we take a transient view of those motives which induced the ancestors 
of our fellow-subjects in America to leave their native country, to encounter 
the innumerable difficulties of the unexplored regions of the western world, 
our astonishment at the present conduct of their descendants will natm-ally 
subside. There was no corner of the world into which men of their free 
and enterprising spirit would not fly with alacrity, rather than submit to the 
slavish and tjTannical principles which prevailed at that period^' in their 
native country. And shall we wonder, my lords, if the descendants of such 
illustrious characters spurn, with contempt, the hand of unconstitutional 
power, that vrould snatch from them such dear-bought privileges as they 
now contend for? Had the British colonies been planted by any other 
kingdom than our own, the inhabitants would have carried ^\ith them the 
chains of slavery and spirit of despotism ; but as they are, they ought to 
be remembered as great instances to instruct the world, what great exertions 
mankind will naturally make, when they are left to the free exercise of their 
own powers. And, my lords, notwithstanding my intention to give my 
hearty negative to the question now before you, I cannot help condemning, 
in the severest manner, the late turbulent and unwarrantable conduct of the 
Americans in some instances, particularly in the late riots of Boston. But, 

: * The reign of James I. 



THE EAEL OF CHATHAM. 69 

my lords, the mode which has been pursued to bring them back to a sense 
of their duty to their parent state, has been so diametrically opposite to the 
fundamental principles of sound policy, that individuals possessed of com- 
mon understanding must be astonished at such proceedings. By blocking 
up the harbour of Boston,"^* you have involved the innocent trader in the 
same punishment with the guilty profligates who destroyed your merchan- 
dise ; and instead of making a well-concerted effort to secure the real 
offenders, you clap a naval and military extinguisher over their harbour, and 
punish the crime of a few lawless depredators and their abettors, upon the 
whole body of the inhabitants. 

" My lords, this country is little obliged to the framers and promoters of 
this tea-tax.f The Americans had almost forgot, in their excess of gratitude 
for the repeal of the Stamp Act, any interest but that of the mother country ; 
there seemed an emulation among the different provinces, who should be 
most dutiful and forward in their expressions of loyalty to their real bene- 
factor ; as you will readily perceive by the following letter from Governor 
Bernard to a noble lord then in office. 

" The House of Representatives (saj^s he), from the time of opening the 
session to this day, has shown a disposition to avoid all dispute with me ; 
everything having passed with as much good humour as I could desire. 
They have acted, in all things, with temper and moderation ; they have 
avoided some subjects of dispute, and have laid a foundation for removing 
some causes of former altercation. 

" This, my lords, was the temper of the Americans ; and would have 
continued so, had it not been interrupted by your fruitless endeavours to tax 
them without their consent : but the moment they perceived your intention 
was renewed to tax them, under a pretence of serving the East India Com- 
pany, their resentment got the ascendant of their moderation, and hurried 
them into actions contrary to law, which, in their cooler hours, they would 
have thought on with horror ; for I sincerely believe, the destroying of the 
tea was the effect of despair. 

"But, my lords, from the complexion of the whole of the proceedings, I 
think that Administration has purposely irritated them into those late violent 
acts for which they now so severely smart, purposely to be revenged on 
them for the victory they gained by the repeal of the Stamp Act ; a measure 

* By an act passed on the 31st March, 1774, the town of Boston, was deprived of its 
privilege as a port, by way of punishment, and the business of the port transferred to 
Salem. 

t The Stamp Act having been repealed in 1766, Mr C. Townsend, the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer, in 1767, proposed an indirect taxation, by subjecting to duty cer- 
tain goods imported by the Americans from this country, and accordingly an Act was 
passed imposing duties on glass, paper, paiiiters* colours, and tea, imported to the colonies 
from Great Britain. This Act excited great indignation in America, and caused the 
subsequent riots, the colonists to refusing to receive the goods from the mother country, 
subject to such taxation. 



70 THE MODERN OKATOK. 

to which they seemingly acquiesced, but at the bottom they were its real 
enemies. For what other motive could induce them to dress taxation, that 
father of American sedition, in the robes of an East India Director, but to 
break in upon that mutual peace and harmony which then so happily sub- 
sisted between them and the mother country? 

" My lords, I am an old man, and would advise the noble lords in office 
to adopt a more gentle mode of governing America : for the day is not far 
distant, when America may vie with these kingdoms, not only in arms, but 
in arts also. It is an established fact, that the principal towns in America 
are learned and polite, and understand the constitution of the empire as weU 
as the noble lords w^ho are now in office ; and consequently, they will have 
a w^atchful eye over their liberties, to prevent the least encroachment on their 
hereditary rights. 

" This observation is so recently exemplified in an excellent pamphlet, 
which comes from the pen of an American gentlemen, that I shall take the 
liberty of reading to your lordships his thoughts on the competency of the 
British Parliament to tax America, which, in my opinion, puts this interesting 
matter in the clearest view^ 

*"The High Court of Parliament (says he) is the supreme legislative power 
over the whole empire : in all free states the constitution is fixed ; and as the 
supreme legislature derives its power and a.uthority from the constitution, it 
canjQot overleap the bounds of it, without destroying its own foundation. 
The constitution ascertains and limits both sovereignty and allegiance : and 
therefore his Majesty's American subjects, who acknowledge themselves 
bound by the ties of allegiance, have an equitable claim to the full enjoyment 
of the fundamental rules of the English constitution ; and that it is an 
essential unalterable right in nature, ingrafted into the British constitution 
as a fundamental law, and ever held sacred and irrevocable by the subjects 
within the realm — that what a man has honestly acquii-ed is absolutely his 
own; which he may freely give, but which cannot be taken from him 
without his consent.' 

" This, my lords, though no new doctrine, has always been my received 
and mialterable opinion, and I will carry it to my grave, that this country 
had no right unch)' heaven to tax America. It is contrary to all the principles 
of justice and civil policy, which neither the exigencies of the state, nor even 
an acquiescence in the taxes, could justify upon any occasion M^hatever. 
Such proceedings will never meet their wished-for success ; and, instead of 
adding to their miseries, as the bill now before you most undoubtedly does, 
adopt some lenient measures, which may lure them to their duty ; proceed 
like a kind and affectionate parent over a child whom he tenderly loves : and, 
instead of those harsh and severe proceedings, pass an amnesty on all their 
youthful errors ; clasp them once more in your fond and affectionate arms ; 
and I v/ill venture to affirm, you will find them children worthy of their sire. 
But should their turbulence exist after your proabred terms of forgiveness, 
vvhich I hope and expect this House will imnicdiately adopt, I will be among 



IHE EAllL OF CHATHAM. 71 

the foremost of your lordships to move for such measures as will effectually 
prevent a future relapse, and make them feel what it is to provoke a fond and 
forgiving parent; a parent, my lords, whose welfare has ever been my 
greatest and most pleasing consolation. This declaration may seem imneces- 
sary ; but I will venture to declare, the period is not far distant, when she 
will want the assistance of her most distant friends : but should the 
all-disposing hand of Providence prevent me from affording her my poor 
assistance, my prayers shall be ever for her welfare — ^Length of days he in her 
7'ighi hand, and in her left riches and honour ; may her ways be icays of 
2)lcasantness, and all her paths he peace .'' " 

Notwithstanding this opposition the bill was carried. 



Speech on the 20th of January, 1775, on moving an address to the King 
to recall the troops from Boston. After strongly censuring ministers for their 
mal-administration and false representations of American affairs, Lord Chat- 
ham thus proceeded : — 

" But as I have not the honour of access to his Majesty, I will endeavour 
to transmit to him, through the constitutional channel of this House, my 
ideas of America, to rescue him from the misadvice of his present ministers.* 
I congratulate your lordships that the business is at last entered upon, by 
the noble lord's laying the papers before you.f As I suppose your lordships 
too well apprised of their contents, I hope I am not premature in submitting 
to you my present motion : — 

" ' That an humble address be presented to his Majesty, humbly to desire 
and beseech his Majesty, that in order to open the way towards a happy 
settlement of the dangerous troubles in America, by beginning to allay fer- 
ments and soften animosities there ; and above all, for preventing in the 
mean time any sudden and fatal catastrophe at Boston, now suffering under 
the daily irritation of an army before their eyes, posted in their town ; it may 
graciously please his Majesty that immediate orders be despatched to General 
Gage, J for removing his Majesty's forces from the town of Boston, as soon as 
the rigour of the season, and other circumstances indispensable to the safety 
and accommodation of the said troops, may render the same practicable.' 

" I wish, my lords, not to lose a day in this urgent, pressing crisis ; an 
hour now lost in allaying ferments in America, may produce years of 
calamity ; for my own part, I will not desert, for a moment, the conduct of 
this weighty business, from the first to the last ; unless nailed to my bed by 
the extremity of sickness, I will give it unremitted attention : I will knock 

* Lord North and his administration. 

t On the meeting of ParHament after the holidays, Lord Dartmouth, the secretary 
of state for American affairs, laid the official documents relating to America before the 
House. 

I Four regiments had been sent out under General Gage, governor of the province 
of BostoHj and coiimiander4n-chlef of the army. - -" 



72 THE MODEHK OBATOE. 

at the door of this sleeping and confounded ministry, and will rouse them to 
a sense of their important danger. 

" When I state the importance of the colonies to this country, and the 
magnitude of danger hanging over this country, from the present plan of 
mis-administration practised against them, I desire not to be understood to 
argue for a reciprocity of indulgence between England and America. I 
contend not for indulgence, but justice to America; and I shall ever contend, 
that the Americans justly owe obedience to us in a limited degree — they 
owe obedience to our ordinances of trade and navigation ; but let the line be 
skilfully drawn between the objects of those ordinances, and their private, 
internal property ; let the sacredness of their property remain inviolate ; let 
it be taxable only by their own consent, given in their provincial assemblies, 
else it will cease to be property. As to the metaphysical refinements, 
attempting to show that the Americans are equally free from obedience and 
commercial restraints, as from taxation for revenue, as being unrepresented 
here ; I pronounce them futile, frivolous, and groundless. 

" When I urge this measure of recalling the troops from Boston, I urge it 
on this pressing principle, that it is necessarily preparatory to the restoration 
of your peace, and the establishment of your prosperity. It will then appear 
that you are disposed to treat amicably and equitably ; and to consider, 
revise, and repeal, if it should be found necessary, as I affirm it will, those 
violent acts and declarations which have disseminated confusion throughout 
your empire. 

" Resistance to your acts was necessary as it was just ; and your vain 
declarations of the omnipotence of Parliament, and your imperious doctrines 
of the necessity of submission, will be found equally impotent to convince or 
to enslave your fellow-subjects in America, who feel that tyranny, whether 
ambitioned by an individual part of the legislature, or the bodies who com- 
pose it, is equally intolerable to British subjects. 

" The means of enforcing this thraldom are found to be as ridiculous and 
weak in practice, as they are unjust in principle. Indeed I cannot but feel 
the most anxious sensibility for the situation of General Gage, and the troops 
under his command : thinking him, as I do, a man of humanity and under- 
standing, and entertaining, as I ever will, the highest respect, the warmest 
love, for the British troops. Their situation is truly unworthy ; penned up 
— ^pining in inglorious inactivity. They are an army of impotence. You 
may call them an army of safety and of guard; but they are in truth an 
army of impotence and contempt ; — and, to make the folly equal to the dis- 
grace, they are an army of irritation and vexation. 

" But I find a report creeping abroad, that ministers censure General 
Gage's inactivity : let them censure him ; it becomes them ; it becomes their 
justice and their honour. I mean not to censure his inactivity ; it is a pru- 
dent and necessary inaction ; but it is a miserable condition, where disgrace 
is prudence, and where it is necessary to be contemptible. This tameness, 
however contemptible, cannot be censured, for the first drop of blood shed in 
civil and unnatural war might be immedicahile vulnus. 



THE EABL OE CHATHAM. 73 

"I therefore urge and conjure your lordships, immediately to adopt this 
conciliating measure. I will pledge myself for its immediately producing 
conciliatory effects, by its being thus well-timed ; but if you delay till your 
vain hope shall be accomplished, of triumphantly dictating reconciliation, 
you delay for ever. But, admitting that this hope, which in truth is des- 
perate, should be accomplished, what do you gain by the imposition of your 
victorious amity? — you will be untrusted and unthanked. Adopt, then, the 
grace, while you have the opportunity of reconcilement — or, at least, prepare 
the way. Allay the ferment prevailing in America, by removing the ob- 
noxious, hostile cause — obnoxious and unserviceable, for their merit can only 
be in inaction: ^ Non dimicare et vincere^ — their victory can never be by 
exertions. Their force would be most disproportionately exerted against a 
brave, generous, and united people, with arms in their hands, and courage 
in their hearts ; — three millions of people, the genuine descendants of a 
valiant and pious ancestry, driven to those deserts by the narrow maxims of 
a superstitious tyranny. And is the spirit of persecution never to be ap- 
peased ? Are the brave sons of those brave forefathers to inherit their suf- 
ferings, as they have inherited their virtues ? Are they to sustain the in- 
fliction of the most oppressive and unexampled severity, beyond the accounts 
of history, or description of poetry ? ' Rhadamanthus hahet durissima regna, 
castigatque, auditque.' '^ So says the wisest poet, and perhaps the wisest 
statesman and politician. But our ministers say, the Americans must not 
be heard. They have been condemned unheard. The indiscriminate hand 
of vengeance has lumped together innocent and guilty ; with all the forma- 
lities of hostility has blocked up the town f and reduced to beggary and 
famine thirty thousand inhabitants. 

" But his Majesty is advised, that the union in America cannot last. Mi- 
nisters have more eyes than I, and should have more ears ; but with all the 
information I have been able to procure, I can pronounce it — an union, solid, 
permanent, and effectual. Ministers may satisfy themselves, and delude the 
public, with the report of what they call commercial bodies in America. 
They are not commercial ; they are your packers and factors : they live upon 
nothing — for I call commission nothing. I mean the ministerial authority 
for this American intelligence ; the runners for government, who are paid 
for their intelligence. But these are not the men, nor this the influence, to 
be considered in America, when we estimate the firmness of their union. 
Even to extend the question, and to take in the really mercantile circle, will 
be totally inadequate to the consideration. Trade, indeed, increases the 
wealth and glory of a country ; but its real strength and stamina are to be 
looked for among the cultivators of the land ; in their simplicity of life is 
found the simpleness of virtue — the integrity and courage of freedom. These 
true, genuine sons of the earth are invincible; and they surround and hem in 
the mercantile bodies ; even if these bodies, which supposition I totally dis- 

* Yirgil, JEneid, vi. 566, f Boston. 



74 THE MODERN OEATOE. 

claim, could be siij^posed disaffected to the cause of libert5\ Of this general 
spirit existing in the British nation (for so I wish to distinguish the real and 
genuine Americans from the pseudo-traders I have described) — of this spirit 
of independence, animating the nation of America, I have the most authentic 
information. It is not new among them ; it is, and has ever been, their 
established principle, their confirmed persuasion ; it is their nature, ^and 
their doctrine. 

" I remember, some years ago, when the repeal of the Stamp Act was in 
agitation, conversing in a friendly confidence wdth a person of undoubted 
respect and authenticity, on that subject ; and he assured me, with a cer-. 
tainty which his judgment and opportunity gave him, that these were the 
prevalent and steady principles of America — that you might destroy their 
towns, and cut them off from the superfluities, perhaps the conveniences of 
life ; but that they were prepared to despise your power, and would not 
lament their loss, whilst they have— what, my lords r — their woods and their 
liberty. The name of my authority 5"^'' if I am called upon, will authenticate 
the opinion irrefragably. 

" If illegal violences have been, as it is said, committed in America, pre- 
pare the way, open the door of possibility, for acknowledgment and satis- 
faction ; but proceed not to such coercion, such proscription ; cease your 
indiscriminate inflictions ; amerce not thirty thousand ; oppress not three 
millions, for the fault of forty or fifty. Such severity of injustice must for 
ever render incurable the wounds you have already given your colonies : you 
irritate them to unappeasable rancour. ^Yliat, though you march from town 
to town, and from province to province — though you should be able to en- 
force a temporary and local submission, which I only suppose, not admit — 
how shall you be able to secure the obedience of the country you leave be- 
hind you in your progress, to grasp the dominion of eighteen hundred miles 
of continent, populous in numbers, possessing valour, liberty, and resistance ? 

" This resistance to your arbitrary system of taxation might have been 
foreseen : it was obvious from the nature of things, and of mankind ; and, 
above all, from the whiggish spirit flourishing in that country. The spirit 
which now resists your taxation in America, is the same which formerly 
opposed loans, benevolences, and ship-money, in England ; the same spirit 
which called all England on its legs, and, hj the Bill of Rights, \indicated 
the English constitution ; the same spirit which established the great, funda- 
mental, essential maxim of your liberties, that 'no subject of England shall 
be taxed but by his own consent,' 

. *' This glorious spirit of whiggism animates three millions in America; who 
prefer poverty with liberty, to gilded chains and sordid affluence ; and w^ho 
will die in defence of their rights as men, as freemen. What shall oppose 
this spirit, aided by the congenial flame glowing in the breast of every whig 
in England, to the amount, I hope, of double the American numbers r Ire- 

*■ Dr rranklin. 



THE EAKL OF CHATHAM. 75 

land they have to a man. In that country, joined as it is wn.th. the cause of 
the colonies, and placed at their head, the distinction I contend for is and 
must be observed. This countiy superintends and controls their trade and 
navigation ; but they tax themselves. And this distinction between external 
and internal control is sacred and insurmountable : it is involved in the 
abstract nature of things. Property is private, individual, absolute. Trade 
is an extended and complicated consideration ; it reaches as far as ships can 
sail or winds can blow: it is a great and various machine. To regulate the 
numberless movements of its several parts, and combine them into effect, 
for the good of the whole, requu-es the superintending wisdom and energy of 
the supreme power in the empire. But this supreme power has no effect 
towards internal taxation ; for it does not exist in that relation : there is no 
such thing, no such idea in this constitution, as a supreme power operating 
Upon property. Let this distinction then remain for ever ascertained ; taxa- 
tion is theirs, commercial regulation is ours. As an American I would 
recognise to England her supreme right of regulating commerce and naviga- 
tion : as an Englishman by birth and principle, I recognise to the Americans 
their supreme unalienable right in their property; a right which they are 
justified in the defence of to the last extremity. To maintain this principle, 
is the common cause of the whigs on the other side of the Atlantic, and on 
this. ' 'Tis liberty to liberty engaged,' that they will defend themselves, their 
families, and their country. In this gi-eat cause they are immoveably allied : 
it is the alliance of God and nature — ^immutable, eternal — fixed as the 
firmament of heaven. 

"To such united force, what force shall be opposed? ^^^at, my lords ? 
A few regiments in America, and seventeen or eighteen thousand men at 
home ! The idea is too ridiculous to take up a moment of your lordships' 
time. Nor can such a national and principled union be resisted by the tricks 
of ofiice, or ministerial manoeuvre. Lapng of papers on yoiu- table, or 
counting numbers on a division, will not avert or postpone the hour of dan- 
ger: it must arrive, my lords, unless these fatal acts are done away; it must 
arrive in all its horrors, and then these boastful ministers, spite of all theii- 
confidence and all their manoeu^Tcs, shall be forced to hide their heads. 
They shall be forced to a disgraceful abandonment of their present measures 
and principles, which they avow, but cannot defend : measures which they 
presume to attempt, but camiot hope to effectuate. They cannot, my lords, 
they cannot stir a step ; they have not a move left ; they are check-mated. 

" But it is not repealing this act of Parliament, it is not repealing a piece 
of parchment, that can restore America to our bosom ; you must repeal her 
fears and her resentments : and you may then hope for her love and grati- 
tude. But now, insulted with an armed force, posted at Boston ; irritated 
with a hostile array before her eyes, her concessions, if you could force 
them, would be suspicious and insecure ; they will be zrato animo ; they 
"will not be the soimd, honourable passions of freemen; they w^iU be the 
dictates of fear, and extortions of force. But it is more than evident, that 



76 THE MODEEN OKATOR. 

you cannot force them, unprincipled and united as they are, to your unworthy 
terms of submission — it is impossible : and when I hear General Gage 
censured for inactivity, I must retort with indignation on those whose 
intemperate measures and improvident counsels have betrayed him into his 
present situation. His situation reminds me, my lords, of the answer 
of a French general in the civil wars of France — Monsieur Conde opposed to 
Monsieur Turenne ; he was asked, how it happened that he did not take his 
adversary prisoner, as he was often very near him : ' J'ai peur,' replied 
Conde, very honestly, ' J'ai peur qu'il ne me prenne ;' — I'm afraid he'll 
take me. 

" When your lordships look at the papers transmitted us from America ; 
when you consider their decency, firmness, and wisdom, you cannot but re- 
spect their cause, and wish to make it your own. For myself, I must de- 
clare and avow, that in all my reading and observation — and it has been my 
favourite study — I have read Thucydides, and have studied and admired the 
anaster-states of the world — that for solidity of reasoning, force of sagacity, 
and wisdom of conclusion, under such a complication of difficult circum- 
stances, no nation, or body of men, can stand in preference to the general 
Congress at Philadelphia. I trust it is obvious to your lordships, that all 
attempts to impose servitude upon such men, to establish despotism over 
such a mighty continental nation, must be vain, must be fatal. We shall be 
forced ultimately to retract ; let us retract while we can, not when we must. 
I say we must necessarily undo these violent oppressive acts :^* they must be 
repealed ; — you will repeal them ; I pledge myself for it, that you will in the 
end repeal them : I stake my reputation on it. I will consent to be taken 
for an idiot, if they are not finally repealed. Avoid, then, this humiliating, 
disgraceful necessity. With a dignity becoming your exalted situation, 
make the first advances to concord, to peace, and happiness ; for that is your 
true dignity, to act with prudence and justice. That you should first con- 
cede, is obvious, from sound and rational policy. Concession comes with 
better grace and more salutary effect from superior power ; it reconciles 
superiority of power with the feelings of men, and establishes solid con- 
fidence on the foundations of affection and gratitude. 

" So thought a wise poet and a wise man in political sagacity ; the friend 
of Maecenas, and the eulogist of Augustus. To him, the adopted son and 
successor of the first Csesar, to him, the master of the world, he wisely urged 
this conduct of prudence and dignity : — 

*' ' Tuque prior, tu, parce ; genus qui ducis Olympo ; 
Projice tela manu.' f 

" Every motive, therefore, of justice and of policy, of dignity and of -pvu- 
dence, urges you to allay the ferment in America by a removal of your troops 
from Boston, by a repeal of your acts of parliament, and by demonstration 

* Por shutting up the port of Boston, altering the charter of Massachusetts Bay, &c. 
t Virgil, .^neid, vi. 834, 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 77 

of amicable dispositions towards your colonies. On the other hand, every 
danger and every hazard impend, to deter you from perseverance in your 
present ruinous measures. Foreign war hanging over your heads by a 
slight and brittle thread ; France and Spain watching your conduct, and 
waiting for the maturity of your errors, with a vigilant eye to America and 
the temper of your colonies, more than to their ovm concerns, be they what 
they may. 

" To conclude, my lords : if the ministers thus persevere in misadvising 
and misleading the King, I will not say that they can alienate the affections 
of his subjects from his crown, but I will affirm that they will make the 
crown not worth his wearing. I will not say that the King is betrayed, but 
I will pronounce that the kingdom is undone." 

The motion was negatived. 



Speech in support of an amendment to the address to the King, on his 
Majesty's speech on the opening of Parliament, on the 20th November, 1777. 

" I rise, my lords, to declare my sentiments on this most solemn and 
serious subject. It has imposed a load upon my mind, which, I fear, nothing 
can remove ; but which impels me to endeavour its alleviation, by a free 
and unreserved communication of my sentiments. 

" In the first part of the address, I have the honour of heartily concurring 
with the noble earl* who moved it. No man feels sincerer joy than I do ; 
none can offer more genuine congratulation on every accession of strength 
to the Protestant succession ; I therefore join in every congratulation on the 
birth of another princess, and the happy recovery of her Majesty. But I 
must stop here ; my courtly complaisance will carry me no further : I will 
not join in congratulation on misfortune and disgrace ; I cannot concur in a 
blind and servile address, which approves, and endeavours to sanctify, the 
monstrous measures that have heaped disgrace and misfortune upon us — that 
have brought ruin to our doors. This, my lords, is a perilous and tremen- 
dous moment ! It is not a time for adulation. The smoothness of flattery 
cannot now avail — cannot save us in this rugged and awful crisis. It is now 
necessary to instruct the throne in the language of truth. We must dispel 
the delusion and the darkness which envelop it; and display, in its full 
danger and true colours, the ruin that is brought to our doors. 

"This, my lords, is our duty; it is the proper function of this noble 
assembly, sitting, as we do, upon our honours in this house, the hereditary 
council of the Crown. And who is the minister — where is the minister, that 
has dared to suggest to the throne the contrary, unconstitutional language, 
this day delivered from it ? The accustomed language from the throne has 
been application to Parliament for advice, and a reliance on its constitutional 
advice and assistance ; as it is the right of Parliament to give, so it is the 
duty of the Crown to ask it. But, on this day, and in this extreme momen- 

* Lord Carlisle. 
a 



78 TPIE MODEEX 0EATOR. 

tous exigency, no reliance is reposed on our constitutional counsels ! no 
advice is asked from the sober and enlightened care of Parliament ! but the 
Crown, from itself, and by itself, declares an unalterable determination to 
pursue measures — and what measures, my lords ? — the measures that have 
produced the imminent perils that threaten us ; the measures that have 
brought ruin to our doors. 

" Caii the minister of the day now presume to expect a continuance of 
support in this ruinous infatuation ? Can Parliament be so dead to its dig- 
nity and its duty, as to be thus deluded into the loss of the one and the vio- 
lation of the other ? to give an unlimited credit and support for the steady 
perseverance in measures — that is the word and the conduct, proposed for 
our parliamentary advice, but dictated and forced upon us— in measures, I 
say, my lords, which have reduced this late flourishing empire to ruin and 
contempt ? ' But yesterday, and England might have stood against the world: 
now, none so poor to do her reverence.' I use the words of a poet; but though 
it be poetry, it is no fiction. It is a shameful truth, that not only the power 
and strength of this country are wasting away and expiring, but her well- 
earned glories, her true honour, and substantial dignity, are sacrificed. France, 
my lords, has insulted you ; she has encouraged and sustained America ; and 
whether America be wrong or right, the dignity of this country ought to 
spurn at the officious insult of French interference. The ministers and am- 
bassadors of those who are called rebels and enemies, are in Paris ; in Paris 
they transact the reciprocal interests of America and France. Can there be 
a more mortifying insult ? Can even our ministers sustain a more humiliating 
disgrace ? Do they dare to resent it ? Do they presume even to hint a vin- 
dication of their honour, and the dignity of the state, by requiring the dis- 
missal of the plenipotentiaries of America? Such is the degradation to which 
they have reduced the glories of England ! The people whom they affect to 
call contemptible rebels, but whose growing power has at last obtained the 
name of enemies ; the people Avith whom they have engaged this country in 
war, and against whom they now command our implicit support in every 
measure of desperate hostility : this people, despised as rebels or acknow- 
ledged as enemies, are abetted against you, supplied with every military 
store, their interests consulted, and their ambassadors entertained, by your 
inveterate enemy; and our ministers dare not interpose with dignity or effect! 
Is this the honour of a great kingdom ? Is this the indignant spirit of 
England, who, ' but yesterday,' gave law to the house of Bourbon ? My 
lords, the dignity of nations demands a decisive conduct in a situation like 
this. Even when the greatest prince that perhaps this country ever saw, 
filled our throne, the requisition of a Spanish general, on a similar subject, 
was attended to, and complied with ; for on the spirited remonstrance of the 
Duke of Alva, Elizabeth found herself obliged to deny the Flemish exiles all 
countenance, support, or even entrance into her dominions ; and the Count 
le Marque, with his few desperate followers, was expelled the kingdom. 
Happening to arrive at the Brille, and finding it weak in defence, they made 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. <y 

themselves masters of the place : and this was the foundation of the United 
Provinces. 

" My lords, this ruinous and ignominious situation, where we cannot act 
with success, nor suffer with honour, calls upon us to remonstrate in the 
strongest and loudest language of truth, to rescue the ear of Majesty from the 
delusions which surround it. The desperate state of our arms abroad is in 
part known ; no man thinks more highly of them than I do : I love and 
honour the English troops : I know their virtues and their valour : I know 
they can achieve anything except impossibilities ; and I know that the 
conquest of English America is an impossibility. You cannot, I venture to 
say it — YOXJ cannot conquer America. Your armies last war effected every- 
thing that could be effected ; and what was it ? It cost a numerous army, 
under the command of a most able general, now a noble lord"^' in this house, 
a long and laborious campaign, to expel five thousand Frenchmen from 
French America. My lords, you cannot conquer America. What is your 
present situation there ? AYe do not know the worst ; but we know that in 
three campaigns we have done nothing, and suffered much. Besides the 
sufferings, perhaps total loss, of the Northern force,t the best appointed 
army that ever took the field, commanded by Sir William Howe, has retired 
from the American lines ; he was obliged to relinquish his attempt, and, with 
great delay and danger, to adopt a new and distant plan of operations. We 
shall soon know, and in any event have reason to lament, what may have 
happened since. As to conquest, therefore, my lords, I repeat, it is im- 
possible. You may swell every expense and every effort still more extrava- 
gantly ; pile and accumulate every assistance you can buy or borrow ; traffic 
and barter with every little pitiful German prince, that sells and sends his 
subjects to the shambles of a foreign prince : your efforts are for ever vain 
and impotent — doubly so from this mercenary aid on which you rely ; for it 
irritates, to an incurable resentment, the minds of your enemies — to overrun 
them with the mercenary sons of rapine and plunder ; devoting them and 
their possessions to the rapacity of hireling cruelty! If I were an American, 
as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I 
never would lay down my arms — never — never — never. 

" Your own army is infected with the contagion of these illiberal allies. 
The spirit of plunder and of rapine is gone forth among them. I know it ; 
and, notwithstanding what the noble earl, who moved the address, has given 
as his opinion of our American army, I know from authentic information and 
the most experienced officers, that our discipline is deeply woimded. "Whilst 
this is notoriously our sinking situation, America grows and flourishes ; 
whilst our strength and discipline are lowered, theirs are rising and im- s 
proving. 

" But, my lords, who is the man, that, in addition to these disgraces and 
mischiefs of our army, has dared to authorise and associate to our arms the 

* Lord Amherst. f General Burgoyne's army, 

g2 



so THE MODERN ORATOE, 

tomahawk and scalping-knife of the savage ; — to call into civilised alliance 
the wild and inhuman savage of the woods ;— to delegate to the merciless 
Indian the defence of disputed rights — and to wage the horrors of his bar- 
barous war against our brethren ? My lords, these enormities cry aloud for 
redress and punishment : unless thoroughly done away, it will be a stain 
on the national character. It is a violation of the constitution. I believe it 
is against law. It is not the least of oui national misfortunes, that the 
strength and character of our army are thus impaired: infected with the mer- 
cenary spirit of robbery and rapine, familiarised to the horrid scenes of sa- 
vage cruelty, it can no longer boast of the noble and generous principles 
which dignify a soldier — ^no longer sympathise with the dignity of the royal 
banner, nor feel the pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war, " that 
make ambition virtue." What makes ambition vii'tue ? The sense of ho- 
nour. But is the sense of honour consistent wdth a spirit of plunder, or the 
practice of murder ? Can it flow from mercenary motives, or can it prompt 
to cruel deeds ? Besides these murderers and plunderers, let me ask our 
ministers, what other allies have they acquired ? What other powers have 
they associated to their cause ? Have they entered into alliance with the 
king of the gipsies ? Nothing, my lords, is too low or too ludicrous to be 
consistent with their counsels. 

" The independent views of America have been stated and asserted as the 
foundation of this address. My lords, no man wishes more for the due 
dependence of America on this country than I do. To preserve it, and not 
confirm that state of independence into which your measures hitherto have 
driven them, is the object which we ought to unite in attaining. The Ame- 
ricans, contending for their rights against the arbitrary exactions, I love and 
admire : it is the struggle of free and virtuous patriots ; but, contending for 
independency and total disconnexion from England, as an Englishman, I 
oannot wish them success ; for, in a due constitutional dependency, including 
the ancient supremacy of this country in regulating their commerce and na- 
vigation, consists the mutual happiness and prosperity both of England and 
America. She derived assistance and protection from us, and we reaped 
from her the most important advantages : she was, indeed, the fountain of 
our wealth, the nerve of our strength, the nursery and basis of our naval 
power. It is our duty, therefore, my lords, if we wish to save our country, 
most seriously to endeavour the recovery of these most beneficial subjects ; 
and in this perilous crisis, perhaps the present moment may be the only one 
in which we can hope for success ; for in their negotiations with France, 
they have, or think they have, reason to complain ; though it be notorious 
that they have received from that power important supplies and assistance 
of various kinds, yet it is certain they expected it in a more decisive and 
immediate degree. America is in ill-humour with France on some points 
that have not entirely answered her expectations : let us wisely take advan- 
tage of every possible moment of reconciliation. Besides, the natural dispo- 
sition of America herself still leans towards England — to the old habits of 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 81 

connexion and mutual interest that united both countries. This was the 
established sentiment of all the continent ; and still, my lords, in the great 
and principal part, the sound part of America, this wise and affectionate dis- 
position prevails. And there is a very considerable part of America yet 
sound — the middle and the southern provinces. Some parts may be factious 
and blind to their true interests, but if we express a wise and benevolent dis- 
position to communicate with them those immutable rights of nature, and 
those constitutional liberties, to which they are equally entitled with our- 
selves, by a conduct so just and humane we shall confirm the favourable 
and conciliate the adverse. I say, my lords, the rights and liberties to which 
they are equally entitled with ourselves, but no more. I would participate 
to them every enjoyment and freedom which the colonising subjects of a free 
state can possess, or wish to possess ; and I do not see why they should not 
enjoy every fundamental right in their property, and every original substan- 
tial liberty which Devonshire or Surrey, or the county I live in, or any other 
county in England, can claim — reserving always, as the sacred right of the 
mother country, the due constitutional dependency of the colonies. The in- 
herent supremacy of the state in regulating and protecting the navigation 
and commerce of all her subjects, is necessary for the mutual benefit and 
preservation of every part, to constitute and preserve the prosperous arrange- 
ment of the whole empire. 

" The sound parts of America, of which I have spoken, must be sensible of 
these great truths, and of their real interests. America is not in that state 
of desperate and contemptible rebellion which this country has been deluded 
to believe. It is not a wild and lawless banditti, who, having nothing to lose, 
might hope to snatch something from public convulsions ; many of their 
leaders and great men have a great stake in this great contest ; — the gen- 
tleman who conducts their armies,"^' I am told, has an estate of four or five 
thousand pounds a year : and when I consider these things, I cannot but la- 
ment the inconsiderate violence of our penal acts, our declarations of treason 
and rebellion, with all the fatal effects of attainder and confiscation. 

*' As to the disposition of foreign powers, which is asserted to be pacific and 
friendly, let us judge, my lords, rather by their actions and the nature of 
things, than by interested assertions. The uniform assistance supplied to 
America by France suggests a different conclusion: the most important 
interests of France, in aggrandising and enriching herself with what she most 
wants, supplies of every naval store from America, must inspire her with 
different sentiments. The extraordinary preparations of the House of Bour- 
bon, by land and by sea, from Dunkirk to the Straits, equally ready and 
willing to overwhelm these defenceless islands, should rouse us to a sense of 
their real disposition and our own danger. Not five thousand troops in England ! 
— ^hardly three thousand in Ireland ! What can we oppose to the combined 
force of our enemies ? Scarcely twenty ships of the line fully or sufficiently 

* George Washington, who was a native of Virginia, of considerable fortune. 



82 THE MODEEN OKATOK. 

manned, that any Admiral's reputation would permit him to take the com- 
mand of. The river of Lisbon in the possession of our enemies ! — The seas 
swept by American privateers ; our channel torn to pieces by them ! In this 
complicated crisis of danger, weakness at home and calamity abroad, ter- 
rified and insulted by the neighbouring powers, — unable to act in America, 
or acting only to be destroyed; — where is the man with the forehead to 
promise or hope for success in such a situation, or from perseverance in the 
measures that have driven us to it ? Who has the forehead to do so ? "SVhere 
is that man ? 1 should be glad to see his face. 

" You cannot conciliate America by your present measures ; you cannot 
subdue her by your present, or by any measures. What, then, can we do ? 
You cannot conquer, you cannot gain, but you can address ; you can lull the 
fears and anxieties of the moment into an ignorance of the danger that should 
produce them. But, my lords, the time demands the language of truth : 
we must not now apply the flattering unction of servile compliance, or blind 
complaisance. In a just and necessary war, to maintain the rights or honour 
of my country, I would strip the shirt from my back to support it. But in 
such a war as this, unjust in its principle, impracticable in its means, and 
ruinous in its consequences, I would not contribute a single effort, nor a sin- 
gle shilling. I do not call for vengeance on the heads of those who have 
been guilty ; I only recommend to them to make their retreat : let them walk 
off; and let them make haste, or they may be assured that speedy and con- 
dign punishment will overtake them. 

" My lords, I have submitted to you, with the freedom and truth which I 
think my duty, my sentiments on your present awful situation. I have laid 
before you the ruin of your power, the disgrace of your reputation, the pol- 
lution of your disciplines, the contamination of your morals, the complication 
of calamities, foreign and domestic, that overwhelm your sinking country. 
Your dearest interests, your own liberties, the Constitution itself, totters to 
the foundation. All this disgraceful danger, this multitude of misery, is the 
monstrous offspring of this unnatural war. We have been deceived and de- 
luded too long : let us now stop short : this is the crisis — may be the only 
crisis, of time and situation, to give us a possibility of escape from the fatal 
effects of our delusions. But if, in an obstinate and infatuated perseverance in 
folly, we meanly echo back the peremptory words this day presented to us, 
nothing can save this devoted country from complete and final ruin. We 
madly rush into multiplied miseries and ' confusion worse confounded.' 

" Is it possible, can it be believed, that ministers are yet blind to this 
impending destruction ? I did hope, that instead of this false and empty 
vanity, this overweening pride, engendering high conceits and presump- 
tuous imaginations — that ministers would have humbled themselves in their 
errors, would have confessed and retracted them, and by an active, though 
a late repentance, have endeavoured to redeem them. But, my lords, since 
they had neither sagacity to foresee, nor justice nor humanity to shun, these 
oppressive calamities ; since not even severe experience can make them feel, 



THE EARL OF CHATHAM. 83 

nor the imminent ruin of their country awaken them from their stupefaction, 
the guardian care of ParHament must interpose. I shall therefore, my lords, 
propose to you an amendment to the address to his Majesty, to be inserted 
immediately after the two first paragraphs of congratulation on the birth of 
a princess : to recommend an immediate cessation of hostilities, and the 
commencement of a treaty to restore peace and liberty to America, strength 
and happiness to England, security and permanent prosperity to both coun- 
tries. This, my lords, is yet in our power ; and let not the wisdom and 
justice of your lordships neglect the happy, and, perhaps, the only opportu- 
nity. By the establishment of irrecoverable law, founded on mutual rights, 
and ascertained by treaty, these glorious enjoyments may be firmly per- 
petuated. And let me repeat to your lordships, that the strong bias of 
America, at least of the Avise and sounder parts of it, naturally inclines to 
this happy and constitutional re-connexion with you. Notwithstanding the 
temporary intrigues with France, we may still be assured of their ancient 
and confirmed partiality to us. America and France cannot be congenial ; 
there is something decisive and confirmed in the honest American, that will 
not assimilate to the futility and levity of Frenchmen. 

" My lords, to encourage and confirm that innate inclination to this country, 
founded on every principle of afiection, as well consideration of interest — to 
restore that favourable disposition into a permanent and powerful re-union 
with this country — to revive the mutual strength of the empire ; — again, to 
awe the House of Bourbon, instead of meanly truckling, as our present 
calamities compel us, to every insult of French caprice and Spanish punctilio 
— to re-establish our commerce — to re-assert our rights and our honour- — to 
confirm our interests, and renew our glories for ever (a consummation most 
devoutly to be endeavoured ! and which, I trust, may yet arise from 
reconciliation with America) — I have the honour of submitting to you the 
following amendment ; which I move to be inserted after the two first para- 
graphs of the address : — 

" 'And that this House does most humbly advise and supplicate his Majesty, 
to be pleased to cause the most speedy and efiectual measures to be taken, 
for restoring peace in America ; and that no time may be lost in proposing an 
immediate cessation of hostilities there, in order to the opening a treaty for 
the final settlement of the tranquillity of these invaluable provinces, by a 
removal of the unhappy causes of this ruinous civil war, and by a just and 
adequate security against the return of the like calamities in times to come. 
And this House desire to ofier the most dutiful assurances to his Majest3^ that 
they will, in due time, cheerfully co-operate with the magnanimity and tender 
goodness of his Majesty, for the preservation of his people, by such explicit 
and most solemn declarations, and provisions of fundamental and irrevocable 
laws, as may be judged necessary for the ascertaining and fixing for ever the 
respective rights of Great Britain and her colonies.'" 

The amendment was negatived. 

[Lord Suffolk having, in the progress of the debate, defended the employ- 



84 THE MODEEN ORATOE. 

ment of the Indians, saying that " it was perfectly justifiable to use all the 
means that God and nature put into our hands," Lord Chatham exclaimed : — ] 

" I am astonished ! — shocked ! to hear such principles confessed — to hear 
them avowed in this House, or in this country : principles equally uncon- 
stitutional, inhuman, and unchristian ! 

" My lords, I did not intend to have encroached again upon your attention; 
but I cannot repress my indignation — I feel myself impelled by every duty. 
My lords, we are called upon as members of this House, as men, as Christian 
men, to protest against such notions standing near the throne, polluting the 
ear of Majesty. ' That God and nature put into our hands !' I know not 
what ideas that lord may entertain of God and nature ; but I know, that 
such abominable principles are equally abhorrent to religion and humanity. 
"What ! to attribute the sacred sanction of God and nature to the massacres 
of the Indian scalping knife — to the cannibal savage torturing, murdering, 
roasting, and eating ; literally, my lords, eating the mangled victims of his 
barbarous battles ! Such horrible notions shock every precept of religion, 
divine or natural, and every generous feeling of humanity. And, my lords, 
they shock every sentiment of honour ; they shock me as a lover of honour- 
able war, and a detester of murderous barbarity. 

*' These abominable principles, and this more abominable avowal of them, 
demand the most decisive indignation. I call upon that right reverend bench, 
those holy ministers of the gospel and pious pastors of our church, I conjure 
them to join in the holy work, and vindicate the religion of their God : I 
appeal to the wisdom and the law of this learned bench, to defend and support 
the justice of their country: I call upon the bishops, to interpose the unsullied 
sanctity of their la^vvn; — upon the learned judges, to interpose the purity of 
their ermine, to save us from this pollution : I call upon the honour of your 
lordships, to reverence the dignity of your ancestors, and to maintain your 
own: I call upon the spirit and humanity of my country, to vindicate the na- 
tional character: I invoke the genius of the constitution. From the tapestry 
that adorns these walls, the immortal ancestor of this noble lord^ frowns with 
indignation at the disgrace of his country. In vain he led your victorious 
fleets against the boasted Armada of Spain; in vain he defended and esta- 
blished the honour, the liberties, the religion, the Protestant religion of this 
country, against the arbitrary cruelties of Popery and the Inquisition, if these 
more than popish cruelties and inquisitorial practices are let loose among us; 
to turn forth into our settlements, among our ancient connexions, friends, 
and relations, the merciless cannibal, thirsting for the blood of man, woman, 
and child! to send forth the infidel savage — against whom? — against 
your Protestant brethren ! to lay waste their country, to desolate their 
dwellings, and extirpate their race and name, with these horrible hell-hounds 
of savage war! — hell-hounds, I say, of savage war. Spain armed herself with 
bloodhounds to extirpate the wretched natives of America ; and we improve 

* Lord Effingham Howard, the Admiral of England at the time of the Spanish 
Armada, represented on tapestry, in the old House of Lords. 



THE EARL OP CHATHAM. 85 

on the inhuman example even of Spanish cruelty: we turn loose these savage 
hell-hounds against our brethren and countr}Tnen in America, of the same 
language, laws, liberties, and religion; endeared to us by every tie that should 
sanctify humanity. 

" My lords, this awful subject, so important to our honour, our constitution, 
and our religion, demands the most solemn and effectual inquiry. And I 
again call upon your lordships, and the united powers of the state, to examine 
it thoroughly and decisively, and to stamp upon it an indelible stigma of the 
public abhorrence. And I again implore those holy prelates of our religion, 
to do away these iniquities from among us. Let them perform a lustration ; 
let them purify this House, and this country, from this sin. 

" My lords, I am old and weak, and at present unable to say more; but my 
feelings and indignation were too strong to have said less. I could not have 
slept this night in my bed, nor reposed my head on my pillow, without giving 
this vent to my eternal abhorrence of such preposterous and enormous prin- 
ciples." 



Speech on the 11th December, 1777, in opposition to a motion to adjourn 
the House till the 20th of January, 1778. 
" My Lokds, 

" It is not with less grief than astonishment I hear the motion now made by 
the noble earl, at a time when the affairs of this country present, on every side, 
prospects full of awe, terror, and impending danger ; when, I will be bold to 
say, events of a most alarming tendency, little expected or foreseen, will 
shortly happen ; when a cloud, that may crush this nation, and bury it in 
destruction for ever, is ready to burst and overwhelm us in ruin. At so 
tremendous a season, it does not become your lordships, the great hereditary 
council of the nation, to neglect your duty ; to retire to your country seats for 
six weeks, in quest of joy and merriment, while the real state of public 
affairs call for grief, mourning, and lamentation — at least, for the fullest 
exertions of your wisdom. It is your duty, my lords, as the grand hereditary 
council of the nation, to advise your Sovereign — to be the protectors of your 
country — to feel your own weight and authority. As hereditary coimsellors, 
as members of this House, you stand between the Crown and the people ; 
you are nearer the throne than the other branch of the legislature ; it is your 
duty to surround and protect, to counsel and supplicate it; you hold the 
balance, your duty is to see that the weights are properly poised, that the 
balance remains even, that neither may encroach on the other; and that 
the executive power may be prevented, by an unconstitutional exertion of 
even constitutional authority, from bringing the nation to destruction. 
My lords, I fear we are arrived at the very brink of that state ; and I am 
persuaded, that nothing short of a spirited interposition on your part, in 
giving speedy and wholesome advice to your Sovereign, can prevent the 
people from feeling beyond remedy the full effect^ of that ruin which ministers 



86 THE MODEKN OBATOB. 

have brought upon us. These are the calamitous circumstances ministers 
have been the cause of; and shall we, in such a state of things, when every 
moment teems with events productive of the most fatal narratives — shall we 
trust, during an adjournment of six weeks, to those men who have brought 
those calamities upon us, when, perhaps, our utter overthrow is plotting, nay, 
ripe for execution, without almost a possibility of prevention ? Ten thou- 
sand brave men have fallen victims to ignorance and rashness. The only 
army you have in America may, by this time, be no more. This very nation 
remains no longer safe than its enemies think proper to permit. I do not 
augur ill. Events of a most critical nature may take place before our next 
meeting. Will your lordships, then, in such a state of things, trust to the 
guidance of men who, in every single step of this cruel, this wicked war, 
from the very beginning, have proved themselves weak, ignorant, and mistaken? 
I will not say, my lords, nor do I mean anything personal, or that they have 
brought premeditated ruin on this country. I will not suppose that they 
foresaw what has since happened; but I do contend, my lords, that their 
guilt (I will not suppose it guilt), but their want of wisdom, their incapacity, 
their temerity in depending on their own judgment, or their base compliances 
with the orders and dictates of others, perhaps caused by the influence of 
one or two individuals, have rendered them totally unworthy of your lordships' 
confidence, of the confidence of Parliament, and of those whose rights they 
are the constitutional guardians of — the people at large. A remonstrance, my 
lords, should be carried to the throne. The King has been deluded by his 
ministers. They have been imposed upon by false information, or have, 
from motives best known to themselves, given apparent credit to what they 
were convinced in their hearts was untrue. The nation has been betrayed 
into the ruinous measure of an American war, by the arts of imposition, by 
their own credulity, through the means of false hopes, false pride, and promised 
advantages, of the most romantic and improbable nature. My lords, I do not 
wish to call your attention entirely to that point. I would fairly appeal to 
your own sentiments, whether I can be justly charged with arrogance or pre- 
sumption, if I said, great and able as ministers think themselves, that all the 
wisdom of the nation is confined to the narrow circle of the petty cabinet. 
I might, I think, without presumption, say, that your lordships, as one of the 
branches of the legislature, may be as capable of advising your Sovereign, in 
the moment of difficulty and danger, as any lesser council, composed of a 
fewer number ; and who, being already so fatally trusted, have betrayed a 
want of honesty, or a want of talents. Is it, my lords, within the utmost 
stretch of the most sanguine expectation, that the same men who have 
plunged you into your present perilous and calamitous situation, are the 
proper persons to rescue you from it ? No, my lords, such an expectation 
would be preposterous and absurd. I say, my lords, you are now specially 
called upon to interpose. It is your duty to forego every call of business and 
pleasure ; to give up your whole time to inquire into past misconduct ; to 
provide remedies for the present; to prevent future evils; to rest on your 



THB EAKL OF CHATHAM. 87 

arms, if I may use the expression, to watch for the public safety ; to defend 
and support the throne ; and, if fate should so ordain it, to fall with becoming 
fortitude with the rest of your fellow- subjects in the general ruin. I fear this 
last must be the event of this mad, imjust, and cruel war. It is your lord- 
ships' duty to do everything in your power that it shall not ; but, if it must 
be so, I trust your lordships and the nation will fall gloriously. 

" My lords, as the first and most immediate object of your inquiry, I would 
recommend to you to consider the true state of our home defence. We have 
heard much from a noble lord in this House of the state of our navy. I 
cannot give an implicit belief to what I have heard on that important subject. 
I still retain my former opinion relative to the number of line-of-battle ships ; 
but as an inquiry into the real state of the navy is destined to be the subject 
of a future consideration, I do not wish to hear more about it till that period 
arrives. I allow, in argument, that we have thirty-five ships of the line fit 
for actual service. I doubt much whether such a force would give us a full 
command of the Channel. I am certain, if it did, every other part of our 
possessions must lie naked and defenceless, in every quarter of the globe. I 
fear our utter destruction is at hand. What, my lords, is the state of our 
military defence ? I would not wish to expose our present weakness ; but 
weak as we are, if this war should be continued, as the public declaration of 
persons in high confidence with their Sovereign would induce us to suppose, is 
this nation to be entirely stripped ? And if it should, would every soldier now 
in Britain be sufficient to give us an equality to the force in America ? I will 
maintain they would not. Where, then, will men be procured? Recruits 
are not to be had in this country. Germany will give no more. I have 
read in the newspapers of this day, and I have reason to believe it to be 
true, that the head of the Germanic body has remonstrated against it, and 
has taken measures accordingly to prevent it. Ministers have, I hear, 
applied to the Swiss cantons. The idea is preposterous ! The Swiss never 
permit their troops to go beyond sea. But, my lords, if even men were to 
be procured in Germany, how will you march them to the water side ? 
Have not our ministers applied for the port of Embden, and has it not been 
refused ? I say, you will not be able to procure men even for your home 
defence, if some immediate steps be not taken. I remember, during the last 
war it was thought advisable to levy independent companies : they were, 
when completed, formed into battalions, and proved of great service. I love 
the army ; I know its use; but I must nevertheless own, that I was a great 
friend to the measure of establishing a national militia. I remember the last 
war, that there were three camps formed of that corps at once in this king- 
dom. I saw them myself: one at Winchester; another in the west, at 
Plymouth ; and a third, if I recollect right, at Chatham. Whether the 
militia is at present in such a state as to answer the valuable purposes it did 
then, or is capable of being rendered so, I will not pretend to say ; but I see 
no reason, why, in such a critical state of affairs, the experiment should not 
be made ; and why it may not be put again on the former respectable footing. 



88 THE MODERN OKATOK. 

I remember, all the circumstances considered, when appearances were not 
nearly so melancholy and alarming as they now are; that there were more 
troops in the county of Kent alone, for the defence of that county, than there 
are now in the whole island. 

" My lords, I contend that we have not, nor ,can procure, any force sufficient 
to subdue America. It is monstrous to think of it. There are several noble 
lords present, well acquainted mth military affairs. I call upon any one of 
them to rise and pledge himself, that the military force now mthin the king- 
dom is adequate to its defence, or that any possible force to be procured from 
Germany, Switzerland, or elsewhere, will be equal to the conquest of America. 
I am too perfectly persuaded of their abilities and integrity, to expect any 
such assurance from them. Oh ! but if America is not to be conquered, she 
is to be treated ^vith. Conciliation is at length thought of ; terms are to be 
offered. ^Vho are the persons that are to treat on the part of this afflicted 
and deluded country ? The very men who have been the authors of our mis- 
fortunes : the very men who have endeavoured, by the most pernicious policy, 
the highest injustice and oppression, the most cruel and devastating war, to 
enslave those people ; they would conciliate, to gain the confidence and affec- 
tion of those who have survived the Indian tomahawk and the German bayonet. 
Can your lordships entertain the most distant prospect of success from such 
a treaty, and such negotiators ? No, my lords, the Americans have virtue, 
and they must detest the principles of such men ; they have understanding, 
and too much msdom, to trust to the cunning and narrow politics which 
must cause such overtures on the part of their merciless persecutors. My 
lords, I maintain that they would shun, with a mixture of prudence and detesta- 
tion, any proposition coming from that quarter. They would receive terms from 
such men, as snares to aUure and betray. They would dread them as ropes, 
meant to be put about their legs to entangle and overthrow them in certain ruin. 
" My lords, supposing that our domestic danger, if at all, is far distant ; 
that our enemies will leave us at liberty to prosecute this war with the ut- 
most of our ability ; suppose your lordships should grant a fleet one day, an 
army another ; all these, I do affirm, will avail nothing, unless you accompany 
it 'v\dth advice. Ministers have been in error ; experience has proved it : and 
what is worse, they continue in it. They told you in the begiiming, that 
15,000 men would traverse America, without scarcely the appearance of in- 
terruption ; two compaigns have passed since they gave us this assurance. 
Treble that number has been employed ; and one of your armies, which com- 
posed two-thirds of the force by which America was to be subdued, has been 
totally destroyed,* and is now led captive through those provinces you call 

* His lordship alluded to the army under General Burgoyne, which was forced to 
surrender to the Americans, on the 13th October, 1777, at Saratoga. On this occasion 
5790 men surrendered on terms ; and it was reckoned that about 4689 men, who had 
been wounded in the retreat from Stillwater to Saratoga, were left to the mercy of 
the Americans, so that the English loss might be estimated at about 10,000 men, besides 
thirty-five brass field-pieces. The moderation shown by the Americans on this oc- 
easion was deservmg of the highest praise. 



THE EAEL OF CHATHAM. 89 

rebellious. Those men whom you called cowards, poltroons, runaways, and 
knaves, are become victorious over your veteran troops ; and in the midst of 
victory, and flush of conquest, have set ministers the example of moderation 
and of magnanimity worthy of imitation. 

" My lords, no time should be lost which may promise to improve this 
disposition in America ; unless, by an obstinacy founded in madness, we wish 
to stifle those embers of affection which, after all our savage treatment, do 
not seem as yet to have been entirely extinguished. "WTiile on one side we 
must lament the unhappy fate of that spirited officer, Mr Bui'gojTie, and the 
gallant troops under his command, who were sacrificed to the wanton temerity 
and ignorance of ministers, we are as strongly impelled, on the other, to ad- 
mire and applaud the generous, magnanimous conduct, the noble friendship, 
brotherly affection, and humanity of the victors, who, condescending to impute 
the horrid orders of massacre and devastation to their true authors, supposed 
that, as soldiers and Englishmen, those cruel excesses could not have origin- 
ated with the General, nor were consonant to the brave and humane spirit of 
a British soldier, if not compelled to it as an act of dut}^ They traced the 
first cause of those diabolical orders to their source ; and, by that "^ise and 
generous interpretation, granted their professed destroyers terms of capitu- 
lation, which they could be only entitled to as the makers of fair and honour- 
able war. 

" My lords, I should not have presumed to trouble you, if the tremendous 
state of this nation did not, in my opinion, make it necessary. Such as I have 
this day described it to be, I do maintain it is. The same measures are still 
persisted in ; and ministers, because your lordships have been deluded, de- 
ceived, and misled, presume, that whenever the worst comes, they will be 
enabled to shelter themselves behind Parliament. This, my lords, caimot be 
the case : they have committed themselves and their measures to the fate of 
war, and they must abide the issue. I tremble for this country ; I am almost 
led to despair, that we shall ever be able to extricate ourselves. Whether or 
not the day of retribution is at hand, when the vengeance of a much injured 
and afflicted people wdll, I trust, fall heavily on the authors of their ruin ; and 
I am strongly inclined to believe, that before the day to which the proposed 
adjournment shall arrive, the noble earl who moved it vdll have just cause to 
repent of his motion." 

The motion was carried. 



Speech on the motion of the Duke of Richmond, on the 7th of April, 
1778, for an Address to the King, beseeching his Majesty to recognise the 
independence of America by withdrawing his troops, and to dismiss his mi- 
nisters ; being the last speech made by the Earl of Chatham. 

He began by lamenting that his bodily infirmities had so long, and especially 
at so important a crisis, prevented his attendance on the duties of Parlia- 
ment, and declared that he had made an effort almost beyond the powers of 



90 THE MODERN OEATOK. 

his constitution, to come down to the House on this day (perhaps the last 
time he should ever be able to enter its walls) to express the indignation he 
felt at an idea which he understood was gone forth, of yielding up the sove- 
reignty of America. 

He entered into a full detail of the American war, dilating on all the 
measures he had opposed, and evils he had predicted, adding at the end of 
each, " And so it proved." He then continued thus : — 
" My Lords, 

" I rejoice that the grave has not closed upon me — that I am still alive to 
lift up my voice against the dismemberment of this ancient and most noble 
monarchy. Pressed down as I am by the hand of infirmity, I am little able 
to assist my country in this most perilous conjuncture ; but, my lords, while 
I have sense and memory, I will never consent to deprive the royal offspring 
of the House of Brunswick, the heirs of the Princess Sophia, of their fairest 
inheritance. Where is the man that will dare to advise such a measure ? My 
lords, his Majesty succeeded to an empire as great in extent as its reputation 
was unsullied. Shall we tarnish the lustre of this nation by an ignominious 
surrender of its rights and fairest possessions ? Shall this great kingdom, 
that has survived whole and entire the Danish depredations, the Scottish in- 
roads, and the Norman conquest ; that has stood the threatened invasion of 
the Spanish armada, now fall prostrate before the House of Bourbon ? Surely, 
my lords, this nation is no longer what it was ! Shall a people, that seventeen 
years ago was the terror of the world, now stoop so low as to tell its ancient 
inveterate enemy, ' Take all we have, only give us peace ?' It is impossible ! 

" I wage war with no man, or set of men. I wish for none of their employ- 
ments : nor would I co-operate with men who still persist in unretracted 
error ; or who, instead of acting on a firm, decisive line of conduct, halt be- 
tween two opinions, where there is no middle path. In God's name, if it is 
absolutely necessary to declare either for peace or war, and the former cannot 
be preserved with honour, why is not the latter commenced without hesitation ? 
I am not, I confess, well informed of the resources of this kingdom, but 
I trust it has still sufficient to maintain its just rights, though I know 
them not. But, my lords, any state is better than despair. Let us, at least, 
make one effort ; and, if we must fall, let us fall like men ! " 

[The Duke of Richmond having replied. Lord Chatham, apparently in a 
state of excitement, attempted to rise to again address the House, but sunk 
down fainting, and was saved from falling by the Dulte of Cumberland and 
some of the other peers. The House was immediately cleared, and medical aid 
obtained ; and, as soon as his lordship was sufficiently recovered, he was re- 
moved to his villa at Hayes, in Kent, where he expired on the 11th of May, 
1778, universally lamented. 

On the melancholy occasion of Lord Chatham's iUness, an adjournment of 
the House was immediately voted. 

Thus died one of the greatest patriots that ever lived, and one of the 
brightest ornaments that ever adorned this country.] 



THE 



MODERN ORATOR. 



THE SPEECHES 



RIGHT HONOURABLE 



EICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIME 



LONDON I 
AYLOTT AND JONES, 8, PATERNOSTER ROW, 

AND ALL BOOKSELLERS. 
1845. 



INDEX 

TO THE 

SPEECHES OF THE RIGHT HON. RICHARD BRINSLEY 

SHERIDAN. 



PjLGE. 

In support of the motion of Mr. Coke, " that the resolution come to by the 
House on the previous day, condemnatory of Mr. Pitt's continuance in 
office, be laid before his Majesty." February 3, 1784 93 

On the motion of Mr. Pitt, for the fortification of the dockyards of Ports- 
mouth and Plymouth. February 27, 1786 96 

On moving for the impeachment of Warren Hastings, Esq., on the fourth 

charge. February 7, 1787 106 

On moving for the impeachment of Warren Hastings, Esq., on the seventh 

charge. April 2, 1787 122 

In support of the impeachment of Warren Hastings, Esq., on the second 

charge. June 6, 1788 137 

Same speech continued. June 13, 1788 151 

In reply to Lord Mornington, on the Address to the King on the opening of 

Parliament. January 21, 1794 163 

/ On moving to bring in a Bill to repeal an Act for the Suspension of the Habeas 

Corpus Act. January 5, 1795 191 

In opposition to Mr. Pitt's Bill, for increasing the Assessed Taxes. January 4, 

1798 . 210 

In support of a motion of Mr. Yorke, the Secretary at War, on the subject of the 

Army Estimates. December 8, 1802 224 

In opposition to the motion of Mr. Pitt, for a Bill for raising and supporting an 

additional permanent Military Force. June 18, 1804 238 



List of Members of the Administrations during the reign of George III. . . 245 



DAVIS AND HASLEK, PRINTERS, CRANE COURT, FLEET STRBET. 



SPEECHES OF RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 



Richard Bkinsley Sheridan was born in Dublin, in September, 1751, 
educated at Harrow school, and afterwards became a member of the Middle 
Temple. He died July the 7th, 1816, and was buried in Poet's Corner, 
Westminster Abbey. 

The early speeches of Mr. Sheridan, like those of Lord Chatham, are un- 
fortunately imperfectly reported. 



Speech in support of the motion of Mr. Cock, member for Norfolk, 
*' That the resolution come to by the House on the previous day, condemna- 
tory of Mr. Pitt's continuance in office, be laid before his Majesty," 3rd 
February, 1784. 

It will be remembered that on the rejection of Mr. Fox's East India bill, 
by the House of Lords, on the 17th of December, 1783, the King imme- 
diately sent to Mr. Fox, requiring him to deliver up his seals of office as 
Secretary of State, and dismissed the rest of the Cabinet on the following 
day. Mr. Pitt was then appointed First Lord of the Treasury and Chan- 
cellor of the Exchequer, but found himself, at the opening of the memorable 
session of January, 1784, opposed by a large majority of the House, and in 
the singular position of Prime Minister, unable to carry any of his measures ; 
notwithstanding which, no declaration could be extorted from him as to the 
intention of dissolving the Parliament, which had been expected, and several 
motions were made, expressive of the unconstitutional situation of affairs. 
Mr. Pitt continued in this anomalous position, supported by the King in op- 
position to the House of Commons, till 24th March, when Parliament was 
dissolved ; and on the meeting of the new Parliament Mr. Pitt found him- 
self supported by a majority. 

Mr. Sheridan said, " The noble lord"^ had laid down a principle some 
days ago, which prevented him from being surprised at anything the noble 
lord should advance. He stated, that in the lippointment of ministers, the 
Crown ought not to consider beforehand whether they should be able to 
obtain the support of the House of Commons. It has frequently been said, 
that when there was a good understanding between the ministers of the 
Crown and the House of Commons, there was ground for apprehending that 

* Lord Mulgrave, joint paymaster with Mr. W. Grenville. 
H 



94 THE MODEKN OKATOK, 

they were under the influence of corruption ; but at present the noble lord 
might rejoice, for there was not now the least room for apprehending that 
the House was in danger of being corrupted by keeping up too good 
an understanding with the ministers of the Crown, who were now at open 
variance with the House. If the ministers and the House of Commons were 
closely united, the noble lord might possibly call their union adultery ; but 
when the ministers and the House of Lords were united in the same bands, 
his lordship would probably call that union a legal marriage. As to what 
the noble Lord had quoted about Lord Somers, it was not at all applicable 
to the present case ; for Lord Somers, on the occasion alluded to, stood upon 
very diiferent ground from that of the present ministers: there was an 
iiT.peachment in one case, and none in the other. The right honourable 
gentleman at the head of his Majesty's councils had, on a former day, said 
that he stood firm in the fortress of the constitution ; but could any fortress 
be called the fortress of the constitution, which was not garrisoned by the 
House of Commons ? They were the natural defenders of the fort. There 
might possibly be indeed a lieutenant-governor of the fort, who, though he 
did not mix in the battle, was not less the commander, though his orders 
were not publicly delivered. The House of Commons ought to inspect the 
works, and see that no sap was carrying on which might dismantle it. The 
present ministers were labouring to erect a fabric that might shield them 
against every attack ; but they were erecting it on ground that was already 
undermined ; and however strong the pillars might be — however solid and 
firm the buttresses — however well turned the arches ; yet, as the foundation 
must be weak when the ground was undermined, not only the building 
could not stand, but the very weight of it would precipitate its fall. Secret 
influence was what undermined the whole ; — it constituted a fourth estate in 
the constitution ; for it did not belong to the King, it did not belong to the 
Lords, it did not belong to the Commons. The Lords disclaimed it, and the 
Commons found themselves thwarted by it in all their operations. An 
honourable member had asked if the coalition of the right honourable gen- 
tlemen with the noble lord'^' had not lessened the confidence of his friends in 
the former. He would endeavour to give as satisfactory an answer as he 
could to this question. When the idea of a coalition with the noble lord was 
first started, he confessed that he had advised his right honourable friend not 
to accept of it ; and his reason was this : — his right honourable friend had 
great popularity, which he might lose by a coalition ; respectable friends, 
whom he might disgust ; and prejudices of the strongest nature to combat. 
He made no doubt but similar objections occurred to the friends of the 
noble lord ; and they were urged to him, in order to dissuade him from 
coalescing with his right honourable friend. Mutual diffidence, between 
men long accustomed to oppose one another, might naturally be expected. 

* On the formation of the celebrated coaHtion ministry, Lord North was Secretary 
of State for the home department, and Mr. Fox, Secretary of State;.for foreign affairs, 
April 2, 1783. 



RICHAUD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 95 

The prejudices of the public all concurred to prevent this coalition. The 
middling classes of people, for whom he had the highest respect, and to 
whom the House of Commons must look for support in every emergency, 
sooner than to the great, were not certainly the best qualified to judge of 
nice and refined points of politics. Accustomed to judge of measures by 
men, he apprehended that they would give themselves no time to examine 
the principles, motives, and grounds of coalition ; but condemn it on its 
first appearance, merely because it was composed of men who had long been 
political enemies. On these grounds, full of apprehension for the character 
of his right honourable friend, he most certainly gave him his advice against 
a coalition. But when the necessities of the time at last pointed it out as 
the only means of salvation to this country; when, from the opportunities he 
had had of seeing the noble lord and his friends, and proving the honour, 
fairness, openness, and steadiness of their conduct, not only he did not con- 
demn the coalition, but he rejoiced that it had taken place in spite of even 
his own advice ; diffidence soon gave way to the most perfect reliance on the 
honour of the noble lord, and on that of his friends, and their steady 
adherence to those principles which had been laid down as the basis of the 
coalition. It was unnecessary, therefore, after saying this, that he should 
tell the House his confidence in his right honourable friend had not felt the 
smallest diminution, Fully acquainted with his character, he knew that he 
looked down with indifference, if not with contempt, on riches, places, and 
dignities, as things by no means necessary to his happiness. It was his right 
honourable friend's ambition to deserve and preserve the esteem and confi- 
dence of his friends ; and he was sure that he would sacrifice neither, for all 
that place and emolument could bestow upon him. Having said so much in 
defence of the coalition, he could not help expressing his surprise that he 
heard so much about it from the other side of the House ; and the more he 
looked at the treasury bench, the more his astonishment grew upon him ; — 
for there the gentlemen who were actually sitting upon it, were divided into 
parts ; each of whom was composed of a member who had supported the 
noble lord in the blue ribbon, and of another who had opposed him. Those 
gentlemen, speaking to each other, might thus address each other : one might 
say, ' I supported Lord North through the whole of his administration, but 
left him at last, when I found he had formed a coalition with that abominable 
man Charles Fox.' The other might reply, ' And I joined Mr. Fox for 
many years in his opposition to Government ; till at last I found it necessary 
to abandon him, when he disgraced himself by a coalition with that abomi- 
nable man Lord North.' If the state of the public credit, and the funds, 
should become the subject of discussion in that House, one of the members of 
the treasury bench may very probably say, ' It was the cursed American war 
of Lord North that brought this ruin upon our funds ; ' — this would instantly 
call up his friend on the same bench, who would immediately reply, ' No ; 
the American war was a just and constitutional war ; it was the opposition 
given to it by the rebel-encourager Charles Fox, who caused the failui'e of 

H 2 



96 THE MODERN OUATOR. 

it ; and this brought ruin on the country.' Thus a treasury, formed on 
anti-coalition principles, v/as itself a chain of coalitions. The grand coalition, 
which was the butt of every man's invective, had begot other coalitions ; 
but there was this difference between the parent and the offspring : that, 
with the former, all was harmony, concord, and union ; while the latter re- 
tained the heterogeneous principles of their original opposition, which made 
them still a prey to discord and confusion. An honourable gentleman had 
said that the majority in the coalition was formed of persons who represented 
the rotten treasury boroughs ; and who were brought in by the noble lord 
in the blue ribbon, when he was at the head of the treasury. But that re- 
proach was ill founded, for the coalition had been purged of such members ; 
some of whom, having spurned the hand that made them, and turned their 
backs on their friend and benefactor, had found a happy asylum in the 
bosom of the administration. From this subject turning to another, Mr. 
Sheridan observed, that if it was improper to interfere by any means with the 
exercise of the prerogative, the House was to blame for having agreed to the 
resolution which passed yesterday unanimously ; which stated that a firm, 
efficient, extended, and united administration was necessary in the present 
state of affairs. For supposing such an administration was now formed, what 
might not the advocates for the prerogative of the Crown infer from it ? 
That nothing could be more dangerous or more unconstitutional than such 
an administration ; for, being composed of all the heads of parties in both 
Houses, they would of course be supported by majorities in both ; and then 
the King would have forced upon him an administration which he could not 
dismiss." 

The motion was carried by 211 against 187. 



Speech on the motion of Mr. Pitt to provide effectually for the dock-yards 
of Portsmouth and Plymouth, by a permanent system of fortification, as 
essential to the safety of the state. — 27th February, 1786. 

Me,. Sheridan declared, " that he gave the noble viscount^*' full credit 
for the principles he had professed with respect to the constitution ; and that 
he did sincerely believe that the noble viscount would not vote for the mea- 
sure then under discussion, but upon a supposition that its tendency was 
rather to diminish than augment the military power of the Crown. Upon this 
ground, therefore, he would meet him ; and he was sanguine enough to 
believe that the noble viscount might be induced to alter the opinion which 
he had declared, unless, indeed, he wbs restrained from exercising his free 
judgment upon the subject ; an apprehension which a late speech of his 
had suggested, a speech in which the noble viscount had expressed himself 
so full of dread and horror at the means by which a Tory foe, in another 
place, had, both by sap and storm, assailed those constitutional bulwarks 

* Viscount Mahon, 



RICHABD BRINSLEY SHEEIDAIST. 97 

which the noble viscount had so zealously endeavoured to erect for the pro- 
tection of our decayed election rights, that it was almost reasonable to 
presume that the noble viscount might have entered into a serious compact 
with a noble duke,*^' his former ally on this subject, for reciprocal assistance 
on their two favourite objects ; by which the noble viscount was peremptorily 
to support the plan of fortifying the dock-yards in that house, or the noble 
duke would no longer engage to assist him in fortifying the constitution in 
the other. But what was the noble viscount's argument ? He had rested 
the matter entirely upon the ground taken by his right honourable friend 
(Mr, Pitt), that this pursuing the system of fortification would actually 
diminish the standing army in this country ; and that the number of troops 
being so diminished, there would be a proportionably less cause for that con- 
stitutional jealousy, with which all parties agreed it was our duty to regard 
the increasing military power of the Crown. That this system of defence by 
fortifications could, under any circumstances, have the effect of reducing the 
standing army, he must beg leave utterly to deny. Some plausible argu- 
ments, indeed, had been adduced in support of this notion, which, how- 
ever, when sifted, would be found fallacious and contradictory. For the 
present, however, he would waive that point, and admit implicitly, that the 
standing army of the country would be reduced by the measure proposed, 
precisely in the proportion stated by the noble viscount ; it then, however, 
remained to be proved, that giving the noble viscount his premises, he was 
right in his conclusion. When we talked of a constitutional jealousy of the 
military power of the Crown, what was the real object to which we pointed 
our suspicion ? What was the datum, as the fashionable phrase was, upon 
which they proceeded ? What ! but that it was in the nature of kings to 
love power, and in the constitution of armies to obey kings. This, doubt- 
less, was most delicate ground to touch upon ; but the circumstances of the 
present question called for plain dealing ; and for his part he could not be 
suspected, even in the smallest degree, of alluding either to the present 
monarch upon the throne, or to the army under his command. He agreed 
most sincerely to the distinctions taken with respect to both, by a worthy 
baronet who had spoken before him ; but at the same time it must be ad- 
mitted, that whenever we spoke of a constitutional jealousy of the army, it 
was upon a supposition that the unhappy time might come, when a prince, 
misled by evil counsellors, and against the suggestions of his own gracious 
temper, of course, might cherish the disastrous notion that he could become 
greater by making his subjects less, and that an army might be found so for- 
getful of their duty as citizens, so warped by feeings of false honour, or so 
degraded by habits of implicit obedience, as to support their military head 
in an attempt upon the rights and liberties of their country ! The possible 
existence of this case, and the probable coincidence of these circumstances, 
was that to which every gentleman's mind must point when he admitted an 

* The Duke of Richmond, Master- General of the Ordnance. 



98 THE MODERN OKATOR. 

argument upon this subject ; otherwise weburlesqued and derided the wisdom 
of our ancestors in their provisions of the Bill of Rights, and made a mere 
mockery of the salutary and sacred reserve with which, for a short and 
limited period, we annually entrusted the executive magistrate with the 
necessary defence of the country. This plain statem.ent being really the 
case, to what, in such a crisis, were we to look ? Were our apprehensions 
only to be directed to the length of the muster-roll of men in the King's pay ? 
Were we to calculate only the number of soldiers whom he could encamp at 
Hounslow, or the force of the detachment which he might spare to surround 
the lobby of the House of Commons ? No ; the gist and substance of the 
question lay briefly here : — In which of the two situations now argued upon, 
would the King and his evil advisers find themselves in a state of the greatest 
military force and preparation, and most likely to command and receive a 
military support ? In this point of view, would it be argued that these for- 
tresses, which were to become capable of resisting the siege of a foreign 
enemy landed in force, would serve as a sufficient strength in the hands of 
the Crown, when the enemy was his people ? Would no stress be given 
to the great and important distinction, already ably urged, between troops 
elected and separated from their fellow- citizens in garrisons and forts, and 
men living scattered and entangled in all the common duties and connexions 
of their countrymen ? Was this an argument of no v/eight when applied to 
the militia, who were to form a part of these garrisons ? or would it, even 
for a moment, be pretended, that men under such circumstances, and in 
such disciplined habits, were not a thousand times more likely to despise 
the breath of Parliament, and to lend themselves to the active purposes of 
tyranny and ambition, than the loose and unconnected bodies which exist 
even with jealousy under the present system ? It was necessary to press the 
distinction : the fact was, that these strong military holds, if maintained, as 
they must be in peace, by full and disciplined garrisons ; if well provided, 
and calculated to stand regular sieges, as the present plan professed ; and 
if extended to all the objects to which the system must inevitably lead, whe- 
ther they were to be considered as inducements to tempt a weak prince to 
evil views, or as engines of power, in case of an actual rupture ; would, in 
truth, promise tenfold the means of curbing and subduing the country, than 
could be stated to arise even from doubling the present military establish- 
ment ; with this extraordinary aggravation attending the folly of consent- 
ing to such a system, that those very naval stores and magazines, the seed 
and sources of our future navy, the effectual preservation of which was 
the pretence for these unassailable fortresses, would, in that case, become a 
pledge and hostage in the hands of the Crown, which, in a country circum- 
stanced as this was, must ensure an unconditional submission to the most 
extravagant claims which despotism could dictate. 

" What could possibly prove more fallacious than holding out expecta- 
tions that a system of defence by fortifications could, in fact, end in a 
retrenchment of the standing army ? The first fallacy in this argument 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 99 

stood forward in the supposition that the system of defence by fortifications 
was necessarily to stop, when Portsmouth and Plymouth should become 
secured ; and that the reasoning upon which the extensive works for those 
places were justified, would not apply to any other parts of the kingdom, 
however their importance called for defence, or their situation exposed them 
to attack. The shortest method of refuting this idea, was simply to sup- 
pose the same board of officers, acting under the same instructions, and • 
deliberating under the same data, going a circuit round the coast of the 
kingdom, and directed to report upon the various places in their progress ; 
and let any person fairly consider the suppositions under which they make 
their present report, and then hesitate to confess, that they must, of necessity, 
recommend a similar plan of defence proportioned to the importance of every 
place to which their attention was directed. It was superfluous to dwell 
upon the circumstances which no longer permitted us to consider Holland, 
in future, otherwise than as a province of France ; or which made it equally 
reasonable to look with an eye of apprehension to the neighbouring coast 
belonging to the Emperor ; because the fact was evident, that, in the case of 
this country being engaged in a war against a powerful confederacy (upon 
the supposition of which alone the present scheme was recommended and 
justified), every motive of prudence must compel us to direct an attention as 
vigorous and vigilant to the eastern as to the southern coast of this country. 
It was not possible for the House to remain at a loss to discover various 
places which, with Chatham and Sheerness (where most extensive lines had 
actually been begun under the auspices of the noble duke), must necessarily 
be provided for in the new system of protection ; and for his own part, in- 
deed, he could wish that any person would compute the stationary defence 
necessary for such places, in addition to the twenty-two thousand men de- 
manded for Portsmouth and Plymouth, and allow likewise for any moving 
force in the country, and then decide what chance there was that this prolific 
system would terminate in a reduction of the standing army ! 

" Concerning the probability of our being able to furnish men for the con- 
stant maintenance of these garrisons, he felt it requisite to observe, that the 
argument had been, not a reference to our present peace establishment, but 
to the extent of the service during the most extravagant periods of the last 
war ; which, in other words, was to hold out a notion that we might speedily 
again look to a time when we should become able to expend, for the purpose 
of war, fifteen millions of money in the course of a single year ! — at the very 
moment when the right honourable gentleman was holding out the reduction 
of our debt by a few hundred thousand pounds, as the triumph of his ad- 
ministration, and the corner-stone of that pillar upon which his fame was to 
become emblazoned! But, even supposing this to be possible, and con- 
sidering the reference to our establishment in the last war as just, the right 
honourable gentleman had taken an unfair advantage of the argument ; for 
when he stated the numerous armies which we had upon the continent of 
America, as resources from which we were in future to garrison these forts 



100 THE MODERN OUATOK. 

and increase our home defence, he ought also to have taken into his account 
the enormous floating establishment attendant upon those armies ; and 
which, being converted into an efficient naval defence at home, would make 
both his fortifications and his garrisons unnecessary. 

" To the attack which the right honourable gentleman (Mr. Pitt) had 
chosen to make upon the late Administration, he should beg leave to answer 
that, in whatever point of view he was that day to regard the right honour- 
able gentleman — whether as that glorious orb which an honourable gentleman 
(Mr. Luttrell) had described him to be, whose influence and power was more 
than to compensate to the nation for the loss of a hemisphere ; or whether 
his lustre was calculated rather to dazzle and surprise, than to cherish and 
invigorate; whether he merited the less complimentary language of his 
right honourable friend (Colonel Barre), who observed, that his conscience 
had been surprised in this business ; or whether he had capitulated upon 
regular approaches ; whether he had been successful in repelling the insinu- 
ation of another gentleman, that he was not in earnest in this cause, by the 
vehemence of his manner, or had confirmed it by the weakness of his argu- 
ment ; whether the right honourable gentlemen most deserved the praises or 
reproaches which he had received, he would not embarrass himself by pre- 
tending to determine ; but only observe, that one part of his conduct had 
most astonishingly escaped the panegyric of his friends — he meant the spirit 
and enterprise with which, taking his hint probably from the subject in 
debate, he had endeavoured to carry the war into the enemy's country, and 
pursue measures of ofi'ence and attack, whilst every pass at home was left 
unfortified and defenceless. 

"For what was the ground of this strenuous charge ? The late adminis- 
tration (as the right honourable gentleman asserted) had submitted part of 
this very plan to the judgment of parliament, but, at the desire of the House, 
withdrew that part for reconsideration ; and now, if, upon reconsideration, 
they had in any respect altered their opinion, it was the grossest inconsis- 
tency of conduct and dereliction of principle ! — an extraordinary charge, and 
particularly so from the gentleman by whom it was urged ! He had recon- 
sidered many subjects, without aspiring to the merit of an obstinate adher- 
ence to his first opinion. He had reconsidered his American Intercouse Bill, 
and had publicly avowed, that he had parted with every idea which he 
once entertained upon that subject. He had reconsidered his India bill, and, 
before it was engrossed, had scarcely suffered one word to remain which be- 
longed to it when it was brought in. He had reconsidered his Irish resolu- 
tions, in every part, provision, and principle ; and having first offered them 
as a bounty to Ireland, he had reconsidered the boon, and annexed a price to 
it, and then reconsidered his own reconsideration, and abandoned his own 
indispensable condition ! And yet this minister, whose whole government 
had been one continued series of rash proposition and ungraceful concession, 
held it out as a palpable enormity in others, that reconsideration should 
have produced alteration of sentiment, and that, too, upon a subject where 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 101 

the first opinion must have been taken upon credit, and the second was 
called for upon minute information and authentic inquiry. In the same 
excellent spirit of reconsideration, many honourable gentlemen round the 
Minister, who had formerly given a decided opinion against the fortifications, 
were now solicitous to argue in their favour. As an efiectual defence of the 
conduct of the late Administration, he could prove, by referring to the esti- 
mates and journals of 1783, that they had not the least occasion to resort to 
the justification of having changed their minds in consequence of better in- 
formation ; for the fact was, that they never had, even in the slightest degree, 
committed themselves either in opinion or approbation of the present plan. 

" Concerning the history of the rise and progress of fortifications in this 
island, upon which the right honourable gentleman had laid so much stress ; 
as if he had proved, that what was not new must be constitutional, and that 
the point which had been often tried must be fit to be carried into execution ; 
he should maintain, that every word urged on this subject made against the 
cause which it was brought to support ; for experience, even by their own 
statement, convinced us of nothing but that the nation had been invariably 
deluded and defrauded upon this unprincipled plea of fortifications ; that 
much had been done and undone, many schemes and many projects tried, 
many millions spent, and the object avowedly as distant as ever ! So that 
repeated proofs of past deception were all which they Tirged as arguments for 
present confidence ; and it was modestly expected they would believe, that, 
because a point had been always unsuccessfully attempted, it was now at last 
certain of being wisely accomplished. 

" The right honourable gentleman (Mr. Pitt) had chosen eagerly to dwell 
upon a pretended charge of inconsistency which he advanced against an hon- 
ourable naval ofiicer (Captain Macbride), and which, although the latter had 
omitted to reply to it, had no other foundation than the right honourable 
gentleman having thought proper to confound the opinion of the land officers 
with that of the sea officers. With respect to the report itself, he was ready 
to admit that those who had entrenched themselves in constitutional objec- 
tions only, refusing to be bound by the advice and authority of any board of 
general officers or engineers whatsoever upon such a subject, had taken 
strong and respectable ground ; and that those also, who had argued the 
subject more with a reference to the state of the revenue of the country, and 
had seemed to consider the measure as advisable, or otherwise, according as 
it should prove consistent with the necessary principles of economy, were, 
undoubtedly, entitled to every attention. For his own part, however, he did 
not go to the extreme of the reasoning used on either of these topics : every 
hour produced instances where practices highly dangerous by their prece- 
dent, and evidently infringing on the established rights of the subject, were 
resorted to, unavoidably, perhaps, for the purpose of retrieving and maintain- 
ing that public credit, without which the afikirs of this country were com- 
pletely desperate. The right honourable gentleman had pledged himself not 
to press this business unless he could make it appear to be a measure not 



1Q2 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

less essential to national safety than to the preservation of national credit. 
Upon this line of argument, the dangers to be apprehended to the constitu- 
tion, which were stated as eventual and remote, must of course give way, 
and the point of economy was wholly out of the question. 

" The right honourable gentleman had also contended, that the decision of 
a board specially appointed for this inquiry, and consisting of persons emi- 
nently qualified for the judgment expected from them, was the best authority 
which the country could obtain on the subject, and afforded a surer guide for 
the opinion and conduct of that House, than either the arguments or the 
information of its individual members could supply. To this he had already 
assented, and now repeated his assent; nor did he hesitate to renew the 
pledge in which the right honourable gentleman had appeared so anxious to 
fix him, that he, for his own part, mindful of the terms upon which the ques- 
tion was suspended at the close of the last session, would rest contented to 
abide by the decision of a board so described, and to withdraw his objections 
to the plan if it could be fairly made to appear that these gentlemen (whose 
names and characters he freely admitted did entitle them to the confidence 
which was claimed for them) — upon a full investigation of the whole subject 
proposed last year in Parliament to be submitted to their inquiry, and being 
left to their own free and unfettered judgment in forming their decision — ^had 
reported, as their decided and unqualified opinion, that the plan proposed by 
the noble duke, and then under discussion, was a measure which it became 
the wisdom and prudence of Parliament to adopt. Upon this point they 
were at issue ; and the report in his hand was the only authority to which he 
should appeal, and the sole ground upon which he should argue. 

" Yet, previous to the least discussion of the matter of the report, he could 
not omit to take notice of many circumstances attending the manner of its 
formation. Far from meaning to reflect upon the officers who composed the 
board, he must beg leave to support the complaint which had been urged by 
the right honourable gentleman (Colonel Barre) who first suggested this re- 
ference, that, in violation of the confidence reposed in Ministers, they had not 
referred the question of a system for the general defence of the country to 
the board, giving them due time and materials for forming their opinion upon 
the great and extensive subject, but had merely required from them a short 
answer relative to two points of attack under certain data of their own 
imposing. 

"Many powerful, perhaps unanswerable objections, had been made against 
the appointment of the noble duke to be president of the board. Some hon- 
ourable gentleman had alluded to the peculiar circumstances of the noble 
duke's personal character ; he had been described as a man who was never 
known to give up a point ; but whether this was the case or not, or whether 
there were some principles of public profession, to which the noble duke had 
not very rigorously adhered, he would not pretend to decide, as he might be 
suspected of speaking from party prejudices. There was one characteristic, 
however, of the noble duke's mind, which he thought might be fairly 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 103 

mentioned, as it was a peculiarity which had been publicly brought forward in 
argument by high authority in that House ; and if, now referring to it, he 
were to represent that noble personage as of a temper eager for extravagance, 
and vehement in the extreme — if he were to describe him as a person who, 
having taken up a just principle, was capable of defeating all salutary pro- 
ceeding upon it, by driving on with a heated imagination to the most flighty 
and preposterous conclusions, the right honourable gentleman opposite to 
him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would become his authority. He 
was the person who had led him and the House into that opinion, as must be 
in the recollection of every honourable gentleman who, during a former ses- 
sion, heard that right honourable gentleman discuss the noble duke's princi- 
ples of parliamentary reform, and recollected the terms of indignant ridicule 
with which he had cautioned them against the schemes of so visionary a 
projector. If, therefore, he was arraigned for following any plan of the 
noble duke's with a peculiar degree of jealousy, he should leave his justifi- 
cation in the abler hands of the right honourable gentleman. 

" Yet the noble duke deserved the warmest panegyrics for the striking 
proofs he had given of his genius as an engineer, which appeared even in the 
planning and construction of the paper in his hand. The professional ability 
of the master-general shone as conspicuously there as it could upon our 
coasts. He had made it an argument of posts, and conducted his reasoning 
upon principles of trigonometry as well as logic. There were certain de- 
tached data, like advanced works, to keep the enemy at a distance from the 
main object in debate. Strong provisions covered the flanks of his asser- 
tions. His very queries were in casements. No impression, therefore, was 
to be made on this fortress of sophistry by desultory observations ; and it 
was necessary to sit down before it, and assail it by regular approaches. It 
was fortunate, however, to observe, that notwithstanding all the skill em- 
ployed by the noble and literary engineer, his mode of defence on paper was 
open to the same objection which had been urged against his other fortifica- 
tions — that if his adversary got possession of one of his posts, it became 
strength against him, and the means of subduing the whole line of his 
argument. 

" The points which (Mr. Sheridan said) he should conceive that he had 
distinctly established from the authentic document before the House, not- 
withstanding the mutilated state in which it appeared, were — first, that not 
one word, hint, or suggestion on the part of the naval officers tending to give 
any approbation, either directly or by implication, to the scheme of fortifica- 
tion then in debate, was to be found in that paper ; but that, on the contrary, 
from the manner in which a reference was made to the minutes of the naval 
officers, of which the result was withholden, a strong presumption might be 
grounded, wholly independent of the information which the House had 
received from members of that board, that those minutes did contain a 
condemnation of the plan. He did not expect to hear it argued that the re- 
sult of those minutes could not be communicated, because they were mixed 



104 THE MODERN OKATOR. 

with dangerous'matters of intelligence ; they had shown a sufficient degree of 
ingenuity in the manner of having extracted them from the report ; and it 
would prove extraordinary indeed if, wherever the judgment was unfavour- 
able, it should have been so blended and complicated with matter of detail 
and dangerous discussion, that no chemical process in the ordnance labora- 
tory could possibly separate them ; whilst, on the contrary, every approving 
opinion, like a light, subtile, oily fluid, floated at the top at once ; and the 
clumsiest clerk was capable of presenting it to the House pure and untinged 
by a single particle of the argument or information upon which it was 
produced. 

" In the second place, he should contend that the opinion given by the 
land officers in favour of the plan was hypothetical and conditional ; and that 
they had unanimously and invariably, throughout the whole business, refused 
to lend their authority to, or make themselves responsible for, the data or 
suppositions upon which that opinion was to be maintained. This circum- 
stance deserved the more particular attention of the House, because the 
report had been so artfully managed, as in many points to appear to support 
a right honourable gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) in a contrary 
assertion. 

" Next, he regarded himself as unanswerably justified in concluding that 
the data themselves were founded upon a supposition of events so improbable 
and desperate, that the existence of the case contained in them, carried with 
it not the imminent danger of Portsmouth and Plymouth only, but the 
actual conquest of the island. Upon this occasion, he did not think much 
detail of argument was necessary, after he had, at least in his opinion, 
irrefragably established, that in the case alluded to, in the words often 
recurred to, ' under the circumstance of the data,' was literally this : ' The 
absence of the whole British fleet for the space of three months, while an 
army of thirty or forty thousand men was ready on the enemy's coast to 
invade this country ; that enemy to choose their point of landing, to land and 
encamp, with heavy artillery, and every necessary for a siege, whilst no force 
in Great Britain could be collected in less than two months to oppose them.' 
By no means could he admit as a fact, even taking it for granted that the 
enemy should decide in assaulting no part but Portsmouth and Plymouth, 
he should, with most polite hostility, scorn to strike a blow at the heart of 
the empire ; but, in the courtly spirit of a French duelist, should aim only to 
wound in the sword-arm ; yet, even under this idea, must he deny that these 
only objects provided for, could be said to be efiectually secured. For, first, 
it was not made out that the enemy mi^ht not either land or march to the 
eastward of Plymouth, where no defence was pretended ; and, secondly, the 
whole question turning upon a supposition of our being inferior at sea, in 
that case a presumption of the safe return of the inferior fleet and its beating 
the superior fleet, was the sole resource for the relief of the besieged dock- 
yards ; the defence of which was expressly stated in the report, to be calcu- 
lated only against the force, and for the time, expressed in the data ; so that 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 105 

the enemy, having it obviously in his power, whilst master of the sea, to 
recruit his own army, as well as to keep the other exposed parts of this 
kingdom in check and alarm, and thereby to prevent the possibility of our 
assembling and uniting a force sufficient to raise the siege, it followed that if 
either the enemy's army exceeded the number supposed, or at the time was 
prolonged beyond the period calculated, the whole of this effectual security 
vanished under their own reasoning, and we should merely have prepared a 
strong hold in the country for our foe ; a hold which the circumstances 
under which he was supposed to make the attack, would enable him for ever 
to retain. 

" Mr. Sheridan now proceeded to his remarks concerning the distinction 
which had, during the debate, been made relative to the different persons 
who were supposed to form the opposition to the present plan, and said he 
had heard the old insinuations of party views resorted to by those who 
defended the original motion ; and some honourable gentlemen, who most 
strenuously opposed it, had, however, in a kind of language which he could 
not avoid taking notice of, disavowed any party feeling or connexion with 
the party in question. With respect to himself, he was happy that the 
business had worn so little the appearance of party as it had ; and although 
he had moved for and obtained the report, which had been so much discussed, 
and upon which so much had turned, he had proved himself ready and 
anxious (as the persons alluded to well knew,) to resign the business into 
the hands of the respectable gentlemen who had upon that day so ably 
brought it forward. He could never, for one, submit to the imputation, that 
the party with whom he had the honour to act were supporting or opposing 
any measure upon the motives less just, less fair, or less honourable than 
those which influenced any other description of gentlemen in that House. 
The present question could not even be pretended to be pursued with party 
policy, as there was not a person in the House who could avoid confessing, 
that party purposes would be better gratified by entangling the right 
honourable gentlemen in the pursuit of this obnoxious and unpopular 
scheme. But the gentleman* who had upon that day led the opposition to 
it, had been desired to take such a lead, because it appeared among the 
most effectual means of warding off an injury from the country ; otherwise, to 
be enlisting under leaders for the day, or courting the temporary assistance 
of any description of gentleman, would, in his opinion, prove a conduct as 
impolitic as undignified. On the other hand, to recede from any important 
contests, because gentlemen unconnected with them were likely to have 
the credit of the event, would deservedly cast on them the reproach of being 
a faction and not a party. But this was not their conduct ; they could 
defend their situation upon system and principle ; however reduced their 
ranks, they were more desirous to prove they were in the right than to 
increase their numbers. He was confident, however, that the gentlemen to 

* Mr. Bastard. 



106 THE MODERN ORATOK. 

whom he might be supposed to allude, were too liberal to set a less value 
upon their support that day because it was unaccompanied by adulation, or 
any endeavour to canvass for their future connexion. Let us (added Mr. 
Sheridan) this night be firmly embodied in a cause we equally approve. 
Let us do this great service to the country ; then separate, and seek opposing 
camps. Let them return with double triumph, if they will, of having con- 
ferred an important benefit on their constituents and the nation, and a real 
obligation on the government. Let them have the credit with the country 
of having defeated the Minister's measure , and the merit with his friends, 
of having rescued him from a perilous dilemma. Leave us only the silent 
satisfaction that, without envying the reputation of those whom we were 
content to follow, without being piqued by insinuations against our motives, 
and without debating whether the Minister might not be served by our success, 
we gave an earnest and zealous assistance in defeating a measure which, 
under the specious pretence of securing our coasts, strikes at the root of our 
great national defence, and at the heart of the constitution itself." 

On a division, the number being equal, the Speaker gave his casting vote 
against the motion. 



Speech on the fourth charge against Warren Hastings, Esq., the late 
Governor-general of Bengal, as the ground for his impeachment, in respect 
of his conduct towards the Begum Princesses of Oude — 7th February, 1787 ; 
the House being in committee. 

On the death of Sujah Dowla, the Subahdar or Nabob of Oude, in 1775, 
his son AsofF-u-Dowla became Nabob, with the consent of the council of 
Bengal, who, in return for guaranteeing to him the provinces of Corah and 
Allahabad, exacted from him, amongst other things, a transfer of the territory 
of the Rajah Cheit Sing, Zemindar of Benares, yielding an annual income of 
2,210,000 rupees, by way of tribute to the Nabob ; the great Zemindars, or 
native landholders of India, being, by the constitution of the Mogul empire, 
tenants or tributaries to the great princes ; and the inferior Zemindars, in 
like manner, tributary to the great Zemindars or Rajahs. This revenue had 
been punctually paid by the Rajah ; but, in July, 1778, he was required to 
pay five lacs of rupees as an extraordinary subsidy, for the maintenance of the 
army for the current year. This was with difficulty raised and paid, as also 
were the subsidies of the two following years, but (on the ground of 
extreme distress) not till after considerable delay and threats of compulsion. 
Notwithstanding this, a fresh demand was made on him to raise 2,000 men 
as auxiliaries to the British army ; and on the Rajah hesitating to comply 
with this exaction, Mr. Hastings himself proceeded to Benares, seized him, 
and placed him under arrest. The natives, enraged at this outrage against 
their chief, rose on the British troops, and in the confusion which ensued 
the Rajah escaped, and Mr. Hastings was forced to take refuge, for safety, 
in the fortress of Chunar. Benares was afterwards ravaged by the British 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 



107 



army ; Cheit Sing driven into exile ; and a youth of the age of nineteen 
years only, created Rajah, with scarcely any of the functions of royalty, 
and his annual tribute raised to forty lacs of rupees. Disappointed in 
the amount of money and wealth derived from this outrage, Mr. Hastings 
next determined to obtain possession of the treasure which the mother 
and widow of Sujah Dowla, the late Nabob of Oude, and who were 
called the Begums of Oude, were reputed to possess, under the name of 
Jaghires ; and accordingly, by a treaty entered into at Chunar, between Mr. 
Hastings and Asoff-u-Dowla, the latter agreed to strip the Begums of their 
wealth, and to transfer the proceeds of their Jaghires to the Governor- 
general — in return for which he was to be relieved from the expense of 
supporting the British military and civil establishments. A pretended con- 
spiracy of the Begums against the British was made the pretext for the 
plunder ; and the course about to be adopted having received the legal 
sanction of Sir Elijah Impey, the Chief Justice of Bengal, the Nabob Asoff-u- 
Dowla, together with Mr. Middleton, the Governor-general's agent, proceeded 
to Fyzabad, where the Begums dwelt, and immediately seized their palace ; 
the Jaghires were transferred, the servants of the Princesses were put to 
torture to disclose the treasure, and even the household of the Zenana were 
subjected to the horrors of famine, until their mistresses consented to sur- 
render their last rupee. This transaction produced upwards of £5,000,000 to 
the Indian government ; and Mr. Hastings extorted a present of ten lacs of 
rupees, or £100,000, from the Nabob, which, by permission of the company, 
he retained for his ow^n use. 

Me. Sheridan commenced by observing " that had it been impossible to 
have received, without a violation of the established rules of Parliament, the 
paper which the honourable member, Mr. Dempster, had just now read,** he 
should willingly have receded from any forms of the House, for the purpose 
of obtaining new lights and further illustrations on the important subject then 
before them; not, indeed, that, on the present occasion, he found himself so 
ill prepared, as merely, for this reason, to be prevented from proceeding to 
the discharge of his duty ; neither, to speak freely, was he inclined to con- 
sider any explanatory editions to the evidence of Sir Elijah Impey so much 
framed to elucidate, as to perplex and contradict. Needless to his present 
purpose was it for him to require Sir Elijah, legally, to recognise what had 
been read in his name, by the honourable gentleman. In fact, neither the 
informality of any subsisting evidence, nor the adducement of any new ex- 
planations from Sir Elijah Impey, could make the slightest impression upon 
the vast and strong body of proof which he should now bring forward against 
Warren Hastings. Yet, if any motive could have so far operated upon him, 
as to make him industriously seek for renewed opportunities of questioning 
Sir Elijah, it would result from his fresh and indignant recollection of the 
low and artful stratagem of delivering to the members, and others, in this 

* Amending and explaining the evidence given by Sir Elijah Impey. 



k 



108 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

last period of parliamentary inquiry, printed handbills of defence, the con- 
tents of which bespoke a presumptuous and empty boast of completely 
refuting all which, at any time, had, or even could, be advanced against Mr. 
Hastings, on the subject of the fourth article in the general charge of a right 
honourable member (Mr. Burke). But even this was far beneath his notice. 
The rectitude and strength of his cause were not to be prejudiced by such 
pitiful expedients ; and he should not waste a moment in counteracting mea- 
sures which, though insidious, were proportionately frivolous and unavailing. 
Nor would he take up the time of the committee with any general arguments 
to prove that the subject of the charge which had fallen to his lot to bring 
forward, was of great moment and magnitude. The attention which Par- 
liament had paid to the affairs of India, for many sessions past, the volumi- 
nous productions of their committees on that subject, the various proceedings 
in that House respecting it, their own strong and pointed resolutions, the 
repeated recommendation of his Majesty, and the reiterated assurances of 
paying due regard to these recommendations, as well as various acts of the 
legislature, were all of them undeniable proofs of the moment and magnitude 
of the consideration ; and incontrovertibly established this plain broad fact, 
that Parliament directly acknowledged that the British name and character 
had been dishonoured, and rendered detested throughout India, by the 
malversation and crimes of the principal servant of the East India Company. 
That fact having been established beyond all question, by themselves, and by 
their own acts, there needed no arguments on his part to induce the committee 
to see the importance of the subject about to be discussed that day in a more 
striking point of view than they themselves had held it up to public observa- 
tion. There were, he knew, persons without-doors who affected to ridicule 
the idea of prosecuting Mr. Hastings ; and who not inconsistently redoubled 
their exertions, in proportion as the prosecution became more serious, to in- 
crease their sarcasms upon the subject, by asserting that Parliament might be 
more usefully employed ; that there were matters of more immediate moment 
to engage their attention ; that a commercial treaty with France had just been 
concluded ; that it was an object of a vast and comprehensive nature, and in 
itself sufficient to engross their attention. To all this he would oppose 
these questions. Was Parliament misspending its time by inquiring into 
the oppressions practised on millions of unfortunate persons in India, and 
endeavouring to bring the daring delinquent, who had been guilty of the 
most flagrant acts of enormous tyranny and rapacious peculation, to exem- 
plary and condign punishment ? "Was it a misuse of their functions to be 
diligent in attempting, by the most effectual means, to wipe off the disgrace 
affixed to the British name in India, and to rescue the national character 
from lasting infamy ? Surely no man who felt for either the one or the other 
would think a business of greater moment or magnitude could occupy his 
attention ; or that the House could, with too much steadiness, too ardent a 
zeal, or too industrious a perseverance, pursue its object. Their conduct in 
this respect, during the course of the preceding year, had done them immor- 



KICHARD BRTNSLEY SHERTDAW. 109 

tal honour, and proved to all the world, that however degenerate an example 
of Englishmen some of the British subjects had exhibited in India, the people 
of England, collectively, speaking and acting by their representatives, felt, 
as men should feel on such an occasion, that they were anxious to do justice, 
by redressing injuries, and punishing offenders, however high their rank, 
however elevated their station. 

" Their indefatigable exertions in committees appointed to inquire con- 
cerning the affairs of India — their numerous, elaborate, and clear reports — ■ 
their long and interesting debates — their solemn addresses to the throne — 
their rigorous legislative acts — their marked detestation of that novel and 
base sophism in the principles of judicial inquiry (constantly the language 
of the Governor-general's servile dependants), that crimes might be com- 
pounded — that the guilt of Mr. Hastings was to be balanced by his successes 
— that fortunate events were a full and complete set-off against a system 
of oppression, corruption, breach of faith, peculation, and treachery ; and 
finally, their solemn and awful judgment that, in the case of Benares, Mr. 
Hastings's conduct was a proper object of parliamentary impeachment, had 
covered them with applause, and brought them forward in the face of all the 
world as the objects of perpetual admiration. Not less unquestionably just, 
than highly virtuous, was the assertion of the Commons of Great Britain, 
that there were acts which no political necessity could warrant ; and that, 
amidst flagrancies of such an inexpiable description, was the treatment of 
Cheit Sing. To use the well-founded and emphatic language of a right 
honourable gentleman (Mr. Pitt), the committee had discovered in the ad- 
ministration of Mr. Hastings, proceedings of strong injustice, of grinding 
oppression, and unprovoked severity. In this decision the committee had also 
vindicated the character of his right honourable friend (Mr. Burke) from the 
slanderous tongue of ignorance and perversion. They had, by their vote on 
that question,* declared, that the man who brought the charges was no false 
accuser ; that he was not moved by envy, by malice, nor by any unworthy 
motives, to blacken a spotless name ; but that he was the indefatigable, per- 
severing, and, at length, successful champion of oppressed multitudes against 
their tyrannical oppressor. With soimd justice, with manly firmness, with 
unshaken integrity, had his right honourable friend, upon all occasions, 
resisted the timid policy of mere remedial acts ; even the high opinion of Mr. 
Hastings's successor — even the admitted worth of Lord Cornwallis's character 
— had been deemed by his right honourable friend an inadequate atonement 
to India for the injuries so heavily inflicted on that devoted country. Ani- 
mated with the same zeal, the committee had, by that memorable vote, given 
a solemn pledge of their further intentions. They had audibly said to India, 
You shall no longer be seduced into temporary acquiescence, by sending 
out a titled governor, or a set of vapouring resolutions. It is not with stars 

* The impeachment of Mr. Hastings, on the charge relative to his conduct towards 
Cheit Sing, brought forward by Mr. Fox in the preceding session, had been voted by 
/a. majority of forty. 

I 



110 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

and ribbons, and all the badges of regal favour, that we atone to you for past 
delinquencies. No — you shall have the solid consolation of seeing an end to 
your grievances, by an example of punishment for those that have already 
taken place. The House has set up a beacon, which, whilst it served to guide 
their own way, would also make their motions more conspicuous to the world 
which surrounded and beheld them. He had no doubt but in their manly 
determination to go through the whole of the business, with the same 
steadiness which gave such sterling brilliancy of character to their outset, they 
might challenge the world to observe and judge of them by the result. Im- 
possible was it for such men to become improperly influenced by a paper, 
bearing the signature of Warren Hastings, and put not many minutes before 
into their hand, as well as his own, on their entrance into the House. The 
insidious paper he felt himself at liberty to consider as a second defence, and 
a second answer to the charge he was about to bring forward — a charge re- 
plete with proof of criminality of the blackest dye — of tyranny the most vile 
and premeditated — of corruption the most open and shameless — of oppres- 
sion the most severe and grinding — of cruelty the most hard and unparalleled. 
But he was far from meaning to rest the charge on assertion, or on any warm 
expressions which the impulse of wounded feelings might produce. He 
would establish every part of the charge, by the most unanswerable proof, 
and the most unquestionable evidence; and the witness whom he would 
bring forth to support every fact which he would state, should be, for the 
most part, one whom no man would venture to contradict- — Warren Hastings 
himself. Yet, this character had friends, nor were they blameable. They 
might believe him guiltless, because he asserted his integrity. Even the 
partial warmth of friendship, and the emotions of a good, admiring, and un- 
suspecting heart, might not only carry them to such lengths, but incite them 
to rise with an intrepid confidence in his vindication. Again (Mr, Sheridan 
added) would he repeat that the vote of the last session — wherein the conduct 
of this pillar of India, this corner-stone of our strength in the East, this 
talisman of the British territories in Asia was censured — did the greatest 
honour to this House, as it must be the forerunner of speedy justice on that 
character, which was said to be above censure, and whose conduct, we were 
given to understand, was not within the reach even of suspicion, but whose 
deeds were indeed such as no difficulties, no necessity, could justify ; for 
where is the situation, however elevated, and, in that elevation, however 
embarrassed, that can authorise the wilful commission of oppression and 
rapacity ? If, at any period, a point arose on which inquiry had been full, 
deliberate, and dispassionate, it was the present. There were questions on 
which party conviction was supposed to be a matter of easy acquisition ; and* 
if this inquiry was to be considered merely as a matter of party, he should 
regard it as very trifling indeed ; but he professed to God, that he felt in his 
own bosom the strongest personal conviction, and he was sensible that many 
other gentlemen did the same. It was on the conviction that he believed 
the conduct of Mr. Hastings, in regard to the Nabob of Oude and the Begums, 



EICHAUD BBINSLEY SHEEIDAN. Ill 

comprehended every species of human offence. He had proved himself 
guilty of rapacity at once violent and insatiable — of treachery, cool and pre- 
meditated — of oppression, useless and unprovoked — of breach of faith, un- 
warrantable and base — of cruelty, unmanly and unmerciful. These were the 
crimes of which, in his soul and conscience, he arraigned Warren Hastings, 
and of which, he had the confidence to say, he should convict him. As there 
were gentlemen ready to stand up his advocates, he challenged them to watch 
him — to watch if he advanced one inch of assertion for which he had not 
solid ground, for he trusted nothing to declamation. He desired credit for 
no fact which he did not prove, and which he did not indeed demonstrate 
beyond the possibility of refutation. He should not desert the clear and 
invincible ground of truth, throughout any one particle of his allegations 
against Mr. Hastings, who uniformly aimed to govern India by his own arbi- 
trary power, covering with misery upon misery a wretched people whom 
Providence had subjected to the dominion of this country ; whilst in the de- 
fence of Mr. Hastings, not one single circumstance grounded upon truth was 
stated. He would repeat the words, and gentlemen might take them down ; 
the attempt at vindication was false throughout. Mr. Sheridan, now pur- 
suing the examination of Mr. Hastings's defence, observed that there could 
not exist a single plea for maintaining that that defence against the particular 
charge now before the committee was hasty. Mr. Hastings had had sufficient 
time to make it up, and the committee saw that he had thought fit to go 
back as far as the year 1775, for pretended ground of justification, from the 
charge of violence and rapacity." 

[Mr. Sheridan here read a variety of extracts from the defence, which 
stated the various steps taken by Mr. Bristow, in the years 1775 and 1776, 
to procure from the Begums aid to the Nabob.] 

"Not one of these facts, as stated by Mr. Hastings, was true. Ground- 
less, nugatory, and insulting, were the affirmations of Mr. Hastings, that the 
seizure of treasures from the Begums, and the exposition of their pilfered 
goods to public auction (unparalleled acts of open injustice, oppression, and 
inhumanity !) were in any degree to be defended by those encroachments on 
their property which had taken place previous to his administration, or by 
those sales which they themselves had solicited as a favourable mode of sup- 
plying a part of their aid to the Nabob. The relation of a series of plain, 
indisputable facts, would irrecoverably overthrow a subterfuge so pitiful, — 
a distinction so ridiculous ! It must be remembered that, at that period, the 
Begums did not merely desire, but they most expressly stipulated, that of the 
thirty lacs promised, eleven should be paid in sundry articles of manufac- 
ture. Was it not obvious, therefore, that the sales of goods, in the first 
case, far from partaking of the nature of an act of plunder, became an ex- 
tension of relief, of indulgence, and of accommodation ? But, however, he 
would not be content, like Mr. Hastings, with barely making assertions, or, 
when made against his statement, with barely denying them ; on the conti-ary, 

I 2 



112 THE MODERN ORATOE. 

whenever he objected to a single statement, he would bring his refutation, 
and almost in every instance Mr. Hastings himself should be his witness. 
By the passages which he should beg leave to read, Mr. Hastings wished to 
insinuate that a claim was set up, in the year 1775, to the treasure of the 
Begums, belonging of right to the Nabob. Mr. Sheridan, from a variety of 
documents, chiefly from the minutes of the Supreme Council, of which Mr. 
Hastings had been the president, explained the true state of that question. 
Treasure, which was the source of all the cruelties, was the original pretence 
which Mr. Hastings had made to the Company for the proceeding; and 
through the whole of his conduct he had alleged the principles of Mahomed- 
anism in mitigation of the severities he had sanctioned ; as if he meant to 
insinuate that there was something in Mahomedanism which rendered it 
impious in a son not to plunder his mother. But to show how the case 
precisely stood when Mr. Hastings began the attacks, Mr. Sheridan read the 
minutes of General Clavering, Colonel Monson, and Mr. Francis, who seve- 
rally spoke of a claim which had been made by the Nabob on the Bhow 
Begum, in the year 1775, amounting to two one-half lacs. The opinion 
contained on those minutes was, that women were, on the death of their 
husbands, entitled by the Mahomedan law only to the property within the 
Zenana where they lived. This opinion was decisive — Mr. Bristow used no 
threats — no military execution or rigour was even menaced ; the Begums 
complied with the requisition then made, and the disputed property then 
claimed was given up. After this, the further treasure, namely, that which 
was within the Zenana, was confessedly her own. No fresh right was set up 
— ^no pretence was made, of any kind, to the residue — nay, a treaty was signed 
by the Nabob, and ratified by the resident, Mr. Bristow, that, on her paying 
thirty lacs, she should be freed from all further application : and the Com- 
pany were bound, by Mr. Bristow, to guarantee this treaty. Here, then, 
was the issue. After this treaty thus ratified, could there be an argument as 
to the right of the treasure of the Begums ? And if the Mahomedan law 
had ever given a right, was not that right then concluded ? To prove, how- 
ever, the reliance which the Princesses of Oude had entertained, even in the 
year 1775, of receiving protection and support from the British government 
— an expectation so fatally disappointed in latter times — Mr. Sheridan read 
an extract of a letter from the Begum, the mother of the Nabob, to Mr. 
Hastings, received at Calcutta December 22, 1775, wherein she says, 'If it 
is your pleasure that the mother of the late Nabob, myself, and his other 
women, and infant children, should be reduced to a state of dishonour and 
distress, we must submit ; but if, on the contrary, you call to mind the 
friendship of the late blessed Nabob, you will exert yourself efiectually in 
favour of us who are helpless.' And again : ' If you do not approve of my 
remaining at Fyzabad, send a person here in your name, to remove the 
mother of the late Nabob, myself, and about 2000 other women and children, 
that we may reside with honour and reputation in some other place.' Mr. 
Sheridan, in a regular progression of evidence, proceeded to state the succes- 



RICHARD BIIINSLEY SHERIDAN. 113 

sive periods, and finally to bring down the immediate subject in question to 
the day in which Mr. Hastings embraced the project of plundering the Be- 
gums ; and to justify which, he had exhibited in his defence four charges 
against them, as the grounds and motives of his own conduct. 

" 1. That they had given disturbance at all times to the government of 
the Nabob, and that they had long manifested a spirit hostile to his and to 
the English government. 

" 2. That they excited the Zemindars to revolt, at the time of the insur- 
rection at Benares, and of the resumption of the Jaghires. 

" 3. That they resisted by armed force the resumption of their own Jag- 
hires ; and, 

" 4. That they excited, and were accessary to, the insurrection at Benares. 

*'To each of these charges Mr. Sheridan gave distinct and separate 
answers. First, on the subject of the imputed disturbances which they 
were falsely said to have occasioned, he could produce a variety of extracts, 
many of them written by Mr. Hastings himself, to prove that, on the con- 
trary, they had particularly distinguished themselves by their friendship for 
the English, and the various good offices which they had rendered the 
government. 

"Mr. Hastings (Mr. Sheridan observed) left Calcutta in 1781, and pro- 
ceeded to Lucknow, as he said himself, with two great objects in his mind ; 
namely, Benares and Oude. What was the nature of these boasted re- 
sources ? that he should plunder one or both — the equitable alternative of a 
highwayman, who, in going forth in the evening, hesitates which of his 
resources to prefer, Bagshot or Hounslow. In such a state of generous 
irresolution did Mr. Hastings proceed to Benares and Oude. At Benares he 
failed in his pecuniary object. Then, and not till then — not on account of 
any ancient enmities shown by the Begums — not in resentment of any old 
disturbances, but because he had failed in one place, and had but two in his 
prospect — did he conceive the base expedient of plundering these aged women. 
He had no pretence, he had no excuse, he had nothing but the arrogant and 
obstinate determination to govern India by his own corrupt will, to plead for 
his conduct. Inflamed by disappointment in his first project, he hastened to 
the fortress of Chunar, to meditate the more atrocious design of instigating a 
son against his mother, of sacrificing female dignity and distress to parricide 
and plunder. At Chunar was that infamous treaty concerted with the Nabob 
Vizier,* to despoil the Princesses of Oude of their hereditary possessions ; 
there it was that Mr. Hastings had stipulated with one whom he called an 
independent prince, * that as great distress had arisen to the Nabob's go- 
vernment from the military power and dominion assumed by the Jaghiredars, 
he be permitted to resume such as he may find necessary ; with a reserve, 
that all such, for the amount of whose Jaghires the Company are guarantees, 
shall, in case of the resumption of their lands, be paid the amount of their 

*^ Asoff-u-Dowla. 



114 THE MODERN ORATOK. 

net collections, through the resident, in ready money ; and that no English 
resident be appointed to Furruckabad.' 

" No sooner was this foundation of iniquity thus instantly established, in 
violation of the pledged faith and solemn guarantee of the British govern- 
ment ; no sooner had Mr. Hastings determined to invade the substance of 
justice, than he resolved to avail himself of her judicial forms ; and accord- 
ingly despatched a messenger for the Chief Justice of India, to assist him in 
perpetrating the violations he had projected. Sir Elijah having arrived, Mr. 
Hastings, with much art, proposed a question of opinion, involving an 
unsubstantiated fact, in order to obtain even a surreptitious approbation of 
the measure he had predetermined to adopt. ' The Begums being in actual 
rebellion, might not the Nabob confiscate their property ?' ' Most undoubtedly,' 
was the ready answer of the friendly judge. Not a syllable of inquiry inter- 
vened as to the existence of the imputed rebellion ; nor a moment's pause as 
to the ill purposes to which the decision of a Chief Justice might be per- 
verted. It was not the office of a friend to mix the grave caution and cold 
circumspection of a judge, with an opinion taken in such circumstances ; and 
Sir Elijah had previously declared, that he gave his advice, not as a judge, 
but as a friend : a character he equally preferred, in the strange ofiice which 
he undertook, of collecting defensive affidavits on the subject of Benares. 

" Mr. Sheridan said, it was curious to reflect on the whole of Sir Elijah's 
circuit at that perilous time. Sir Elijah had stated his desire of relaxing 
from the fatigues of office, and unbending his mind in a party of health and 
pleasure : yet, wisely apprehending that very sudden relaxation might defeat 
its object, he had contrived to mix some matters of business to be interspersed 
with his amusements. He had, therefore, in his little airing of nine hundred 
miles, great part of which he went post, escorted by an army, selected those 
very situations where insurrection subsisted and rebellion was threatened ; 
and had not only delivered his deep and curious researches into the laws 
and rights of nations and of treaties, in the capacity of the Oriental Grotius, 
whom Warren Hastings was to study ; but likewise in the humble and more 
practical situation of a collector of ex parte evidence. In the former quality, 
his opinion was the premature sanction for plundering the Begums ; in the 
latter character, he became the posthumous supporter of the expulsion and 
pillage of the Bajah Chei't Sing. Acting on an unproved fact, on a posi- 
tion as a datum of the Duke of Richmond's fabrication, he had not hesitated, 
in the first instance, to lend his authority as a license for unlimited persecu- 
tion. In the latter, he did not disdain to scud about India, like an itinerant 
informer, with a pedlar's pack of garbled evidence and surreptitious affidavits. 
What pure friendship ! what a voucher of unequivocal attachment, from a 
British judge to such a character as Warren Hastings ! With a generous 
oblivion of duty and honour ; with a proud sense of having authorised all 
future rapacity, and sanctioned all past oppression, this friendly judge pro- 
ceeded on his circuit of health and ease ; and whilst the Governor-general, 
sanctioned by this solemn opinion, issued his orders to plunder the Begums 



KICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 115 

of their treasure, Sir Elijah pursued his progress ; and, passing through a 
wide region of distress and misery, explored a country that presented a 
speaking picture of hunger and nakedness, in quest of objects best suited 
to his feelings, in anxious search of calamities most kindred to his invalid 
imagination. 

"Thus, whilst the executive power in India was perverted to the most 
disgraceful inhumanities, the judicial authority also became its close and 
confidential associate ; at the same moment that the sword of government 
was turned to an assassin's dagger, the pure ermine of justice was stained 
and foiled with the basest and meanest contamination. Under such circum- 
stances did Mr. Hastings complete the treaty of Chunar: a treaty which 
might challenge all the treaties that ever subsisted, for containing in the 
smallest compass the most extensive treachery. Mr. Hastings did not con- 
clude that treaty till he had received from the Nabob a present, or rather a 
bribe, of £100,000. 

*' The circumstances of this present were as extraordinary as the thing 
itself. Four months afterwards, and not till then, Mr. Hastings communi- 
cated the matter to the Company. Unfortunately for himself, however, this 
tardy disclosure was conveyed in words which betrayed his original meaning ; 
for, with no common incaution, he admits the present * was of a magnitude 
not to be concealed.'' Mr. Sheridan stated all the circumstances of this bribe ; 
and averred that the whole had its rise in a principle of rank corruption. 
For what was the consideration for this extraordinary bribe ? No less than 
the withdrawing from Oude not only all the English gentlemen in official 
situations, but the whole also of the English army ; and that, too, at the 
very moment when he himself had stated the whole country of Oude to be 
in open revolt and rebellion. Other very strange articles were contained in 
the same treaty, which nothing but this infamous bribe could have occasioned, 
together with the reserve which he had in his own mind of treachery to the 
Nabob ; for the only part of the treaty which he ever attempted to carry into 
execution was to withdraw the English gentlemen from Oude. The Nabob, 
indeed, considered this as essential to his deliverance ; and his observation on 
the circumstance was curious ; for though Major Palmer, said he, has not yet 
asked anything, I observe it is the custom of the English gentlemen con- 
stantly to ask for something from me before they go. This imputation on 
the English Mr. Hastings was most ready, most rejoiced, to countenance as 
a screen and shelter for his own abandoned profligacy ; and, therefore, at the 
very moment that he pocketed the extorted spoils of the Nabob, with his 
usual grave hypocrisy and cant, * Go,' he said to the English gentlemen, 
* go, you oppressive rascals, go from this worthy, unhappy man, whom you 
have plundered, and leave him to my protection. You have robbed him — ■ 
you have plundered him — you have taken advantage of his accumulated dis- 
tresses ; but, please God, he shall in future be at rest ; for I have promised 
him he shall never see the face of an Englishman again.' This, however, 
was the only part of the treaty which he even affected to fufil ; and, in all its 



116 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

other parts, we learn from himself, that at the very moment he made it he 
intended to deceive the Nabob ; and, accordingly, he advised general^ instead 
of partial, resumption, for the express purpose of defeating the first views of 
the Nabob ; and, instead of giving instant and unqualified assent to all the 
articles of the treaty, he perpetually qualified, explained, and varied them 
with new diminutions and reservations. Mr. Sheridan called upon gentle- 
men to say, if there was any theory in Machiavel, any treachery upon record, 
if they had ever heard of any cold Italian fraud which could, in any degree, 
be put in comparison with the disgusting hypocrisy, and unequalled baseness, 
which Mr. Hastings had shown on that occasion. 

" After having stated this complicated infamy in terms of the severest re- 
prehension, Mr. Sheridan proceeded to observe, that he recollected to have 
heard it advanced by some of those admirers of Mr. Hastings, who were not 
so implicit as to give unqualified applause to his crimes, that they found an 
apology for the atrocity of them, in the greatness of his mind. To estimate 
the solidity of such a defence, it would be sufficient merely to consider in 
what consisted this prepossessing distinction, this captivating characteristic 
of greatness of mind. Is it not solely to be traced in great actions directed 
to great ends } In them, and them alone, we are to search for true estimable 
magnanimity. To them only can we justly affix the splendid title and 
honours of real greatness. There was, indeed, another species of greatness, 
which displayed itself in boldly conceiving a bad measure, and undauntedly 
pursuing it to its accomplishment. But had Mr. Hastings the merit of ex- 
hibiting either of these descriptions of greatness — even of the latter ? He 
saw nothing great, nothing magnanimous, nothing open, nothing direct in his 
measures or in his mind ; on the contrary, he had too often pursued the worst 
objects by the worst means. His course was an eternal deviation from recti- 
tude. He either tyrannised or deceived ; and was, by turns, a Dionysius and 
a Scapin. As well might the writhing obliquity of the serpent be compared 
to the swift directness of the arrow, as the duplicity of Mr. Hastings's am- 
bition to the simple steadiness of genuine magnanimity. In his mind all was 
shufiling, ambiguous, dark, insidious, and little ; nothing simple, nothing 
unmixed ; all affected plainness, and actual dissimulation ; a heterogeneous 
mass of contradictory qualities ; with nothing great but his crimes ; and even 
those contrasted by the littleness of his motives, which at once denoted both 
his baseness and his meanness, and marked him for a traitor and a trickster. 
Nay, in his style and writing there was the same mixture of vicious con- 
trarieties; the most grovelling ideas were conveyed in the most inflated 
language ; giving mock consequence to low cavils, and uttering quibbles in 
heroics ; so that his compositions disgusted the mind's taste, as much as his 
actions excited the soul's abhorrence. Indeed, this mixture of character 
seemed, by some unaccountable, but inherent quality, to be appropriated, 
though in inferior degrees, to everything that concerned his employers. He 
remembered to have heard an honourable and learned gentleman (Mr. Dundas) 
remark, that there was something in the first frame and constitution of the 



KICHAKD BRINSLEY SHEEIDAN. 117 

Company, which extended the sordid principles of their origin over all their 
successive operations ; connecting with their civil policy, and even with their 
boldest achievements, the meanness of a pedlar, and the profligacy of pirates. 
Alike in the political and the military line could be observed auctioneering 
ambassadors and trading generals ; and thus we saw a revolution brought 
about by affidavits ; an army employed in executing an arrest ; a town 
besieged on a ' note of hand ;' a prince dethroned for the * balance of an 
account.' Thus it was they exhibited a government which united the mock 
majesty of a bloody sceptre and the little traffic of a merchant's counting- 
house, wielding a truncheon with one hand, and picking a pocket with the 
other. — Mr. Sheridan now went into a long statement to show the various 
irrefragable proofs exhibited in the minutes of the Bengal Council, of the 
falsity of the charge, namely, that the Begums were the ancient disturbers of 
the government. And equally to prove that the second charge also (namely, 
that the Begums had incited the Jaghiredars to resist the Nabob) was no less 
untrue ; it being substantiated in evidence that not one of the Jaghiredars 
did resist. 

" Mr. Sheridan maintained that it was incontrovertible that the Begums 
were not concerned either in the rebellion of Bulbudder, or the insurrection 
at Benares ; nor did Mr. Hastings ever once seriously believe them guilty. 
Their treasures were their treasons, and Asoph ul Dowlah thought like an 
unwise prince, when he blamed his father for leaving him so little wealth. 
His father, Shulah ul Dowlah, acted wisely in leaving his son with no temp- 
tation about him, to invite acts of violence from the rapacious. He clothed 
him with poverty as with a shield, and armed him with necessity as with a 
sword. 

*' The third charge was equally false. Did they resist the resumption of 
their own Jaghiredars ? Though, if they had resisted, he contended that 
there would have been no crime ; for those Jaghiredars were by solemn 
treaty confirmed to them ; but, on the contrary, there was not one syllable of 
charge against them. The Nabob himself, with all the load of obloquy which 
he incurred, never imputed to them the crime of stirring up an opposition to 
his authority. 

" To prove the falsehood of the whole of this charge, and to show that Mr. 
Hastings originally projected the plunder ; that he threw the odium, in the 
first instance, on the Nabob ; that he imputed the crimes to them before he 
had received one of the rumours which he afterwards manufactured into 
affidavits, Mr. Sheridan recommended a particular attention to dates; and 
he deduced from the papers these facts : — that the first idea was started 
by Mr. Hastings, on the 15th of November, 1781 ; that Mr. Middleton 
communicated it to the Nabob, and procured from him a formal proposition 
on the 2nd of December; that on the 1st of December Mr. Hastings wrote 
a letter to Mr. Middleton, confirming the first suggestion made through Sir 
Elijah, which letter came into the hands of Mr. Middleton, on the 6th of 
December. He stated all the circumstances of the pains taken by Mr. 



118 THE MODEBN ORATOK. 

Middleton to bring the Nabob at length to issue with the Perwannas, and 
coupled this with the extraordinary minute written by Mr. Hastings on his 
return to Calcutta, where he stated the resistance of the Begums to the 
execution of the resumption on the 7th of January, 1782, as the cause of 
the measure in November, 1781. Mr. Sheridan then proceeded to prove 
that the Begums were, by their condition, their age, and their infirmities, 
almost the only souls in India who could not have a thought of distressing 
that government by which alone they could hope to be protected ; and that 
to charge them with a design to depose their nearest and dearest relation, 
was equally absurd. He did not endeavour to do this from any idea 
that because there was no motive for the ofiences imputed to these women, 
it was therefore a necessary consequence that such imputations were false. 
He was not to learn that there was such a crime as wanton, unprovoked 
wickedness. Those who entertained doubts on this point need only give 
themselves the trouble of reading the administration of Mr. Hastings. But, 
as to the immediate case, the documents on the table would bear incon- 
trovertible testimony that insurrections had constantly taken place in Oude. 
To ascribe it to the Begums was wandering even beyond the improbabilities 
of fiction. It were not less absurd to affirm, that famine would not have 
pinched, nor thirst have parched, nor extermination have depopulated — but 
for the interference of these old women. To use a strong expression of Mr. 
Hastings on another occasion, 'The good which those women did was 
certain — the ill was precarious.' But Mr. Hastings had found it more 
suitable to his purpose to reverse the proposition ; yet, wanting a motive for 
his rapacity, he could find it only in fiction. The simple fact was, their 
treasure was their treason. But ' they coniplained of the injustice.' God of 
Heaven ! had they not a right to complain ? After a solemn treaty violated ; 
'plundered of all their property, and on the eve of the last extremity of 
wretchedness, were they to be deprived of the last resource of impotent 
wretchedness — complaint and lamentation ? Was it a crime that they should 
crowd together in fluttering trepidation like a flock of resistless birds on seeing 
the felon kite, who, having darted at one devoted bird, and missed his aim, 
singled out a new object, and was springing on his prey with redoubled vigour 
in his wing, and keener vengeance in his eye ? The fact with Mr. Hastings 
was precisely this : — Having failed in the case of Cheit Sing, he saw his fate ; 
he felt the necessity of procuring a sum of money somewhere, for he knew 
that to be the never-failing receipt to make his peace with the Directors at 
home. Such, Mr. Sheridan added, were the true substantial motives of the 
horrid excesses perpetrated against the Begums ! — excesses, in every part of 
the description of which, he felt himself accompanied by the vigorous support 
of the most unanswerable evidence ; and upon this test would he place his 
whole cause. Let gentlemen lay their hands upon their hearts, and with 
truth issuing in all its purity from their lips, solemnly declare whether they 
were or were not convinced that the real spring of the conduct of Mr. Hastings, 
far from being a desire to crush a rebellion, (an ideal, fabulous rebellion !) 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 119 

was a malignantly rapacious determination to seize, with lawless hands, upon 
the treasure of devoted, miserable, yet unoffending victims. 

" Mr. Sheridan now adverted to the affidavit made by Mr. Middleton ; and 
after stating how futile were the grounds upon which he had, to the 
satisfaction of his conscience, proceeded to the utmost extremity of violence 
against the Begums, he exclaimed. The God of Justice forbid that any man 
in this House should make up his mind to accuse Mr. Hastings on the ground 
which Mr. Middleton took for condemning the Begums ; or to pass a verdict 
of ' guilty ' for the most trivial misdemeanour against the poorest wretch that 
ever had existed. He then revised and animadverted on the affidavits of 
Colonel Hannay, Colonel Gordon, Major M'Donald, Major Williams, and 
others. Major Williams, among the strange reports that chiefly filled these 
affidavits, stated one that he had heard — namely, that fifty British troops, 
watching two hundred prisoners, had been surrounded by six thousand of the 
enemy, and relieved by the approach of nine men. And of such extraordinary 
hearsay evidence were most of the depositions composed. Considering, there- 
fore, the character given by Mr. Hastings to the British army in Oude, ' that 
they manifested a rage for rapacity and peculation,' it was extraordinary that 
there were no instances of stouter swearing. But as for Colonel Gordon, he 
afforded a flagrantly conspicuous proof of the grateful spirit and temper of affi- 
davits designed to plunge these wretched women in irretrievable ruin. Colo- 
nel Gordon was, just before, not merely released from danger, but preserved 
from imminent death, by the very person whose accuser he thought fit to 
become ; and yet, incredible as it may appear, even at the expiration of two 
little days from his deliverance, he deposes against the distressed and unfor- 
tunate women who had become his saviour, and, only upon hearsay evidence, 
accuses her of crimes and rebellion. Great God of Justice ! (exclaimed Mr. 
Sheridan,) canst thou from thy eternal throne look down upon such premedi- 
tated turpitude of heart, and not fix some mark of dreadful vengeance upon 
the perpetrators ? — Of Mr. M'Donald, he said, that he liked not the memory 
which remembered things better at the end of five years than at the time, 
unless there might be something so relaxing in the climate of India, and so 
affecting the memory as well as the nerves, * the soft figures melting away,' 
and the images of immediate action instantaneously dissolving, men must re- 
turn to their native air of England, to brace up the mind as v/ell as the body, 
and have their memories, like their sinews, restrung. 

" Having painted the loose quality of the affidavits, he said, that he must 
pause a moment, and particularly address himself to one description of gen- 
tlemen, those of the learned profession, within those walls. They saw that 
that House was the path to fortune in their profession ; that they might 
soon expect that some of them were to be called to a dignified situation, 
where the great and important trust would be reposed in them of protecting 
the lives and fortunes of their fellow-subjects. One right honourable and 
learned gentleman, in particular (Sir Lloyd Kenyon), if rumour spok6 right, 
might suddenly be called to succeed that great and venerable character who 



120 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

long had shone the brightest luminary of his profession, whose pure and 
steady light was clear even to its latest moment, but whose last beam must 
now too soon be extinguished. That he would ask the supposed successor 
of Lord Mansfield, to calmly reflect on these extraordinary depositions, and 
solemnly to declare, whether the mass of affidavits taken at Lucknow would 
be received by him as evidence to convict the lowest object in this country ? 
If he said it would, he declared to God he would sit down and not add a 
syllable more to the too long trespass which he had made on the patience of 
the committee." 

Mr. Sheridan went further into the exposure of the evidence, into the 
comparison of dates, and the subsequent circumstances, in order to prove that 
all the enormous consequence which followed from the resumption, in the 
captivity of the women, and the imprisonment and cruelties practised on their 
people, were solely to be ascribed and to be imputed to Mr. Hastings. After 
stating the miseries which the women sufiered, he said that " Mr. Hastings 
had once remarked, that a mind touched with superstition might have con- 
templated the fate of the Rohillas with peculiar impressions. But if, indeed, 
the mind of Mr. Hastings could yield to superstitious imagination ; if his 
fancy could suffer any disturbance, and, even in vision, image forth the proud 
spirit of Sujah Dowlah, looking down upon the ruin and devastation of his 
family, and beholding that place which Mr. Hastings had first wrested from 
his hand, and afterwards restored, plundered by that very army with which he 
himself had vanquished the Mahrattas ; seizing on the very plunder which 
he had ravaged from the Rohillas ; that Middleton, who had been engaged 
in managing the previous violations, most busy to perpetrate the last ; that 
very Hastings, whom, on his death-bed, he had left the guardian of his wife, 
and mother, and family, turning all those dear relations, the objects of his 
solemn trust, forth to the merciless seasons, and to a more merciless soldiery! 
A mind touched with superstition must indeed have cherished such a 
contemplation with peculiar impressions ! That Mr. Hastings was regularly 
acquainted with all the enormities committed on the Begums, there was the 
clearest proof. It was true that Middleton was rebuked for not being more 
exact. He did not, perhaps, descend to the detail ; he did not give him an 
account of the number of groans which were heaved; of the quantity of 
tears which were shed ; of the weight of the fetters ; or of the depth of the 
dungeons ; but he communicated every step which he took to accomplish 
the base and unwarrantable end. He told him, that, to save appearances, 
they must use the name of the Nabob, and that they need go no further 
than was absolutely necessary : this he might venture to say without being 
suspected by Mr. Hastings of too severe a morality. The Governor- general 
also endeavoured to throw a share of the guilt on the Council, although Mr. 
Wheeler had never taken any share, and Mr. Macpherson had not arrived in 
India when the scene began. After contending that he had shrunk from 
the inquiry ordered by the Court of Directors, under a new and pompous 
4octrine, that the majesty of justice was to be approached with supplication, 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 121 

and was not to degrade itself by hunting for crimes ; forgetting the infa- 
mous employment to which he had appointed an English chief-justice, 
to hunt for criminal charges against innocent, defenceless women ; Mr. 
Sheridan said, he trusted that that House would vindicate the insulted 
character of justice ; that they would demonstrate its true quality, essence, 
and purposes — they would demonstrate it to be, in the case of Mr. Hastings, 
active, inquisitive, and avenging, 

" Mr. Sheridan remarked that he heard of factions and parties in that 
House, and knew they existed. There was scarcely a subject upon which 
they were not broken and divided into sects. The prerogative of the Crown 
found its advocates among the representatives of the people. The privileges 
of the people found opponents even in the House of Commons itself. Habits, 
connexions, parties, all led to diversity of opinion. But when inhumanity 
presented itself to their observation, it found no division among them : they 
attacked it as their common enemy ; and, as if the character of this land was 
involved in their zeal for its ruin, they left it not till it was completely over- 
thrown. It was not given to that House, to behold the objects of their 
compassion and benevolence in the present extensive consideration, as it was 
to the officers who relieved, and who so feelingly described the ecstatic emo- 
tions of gratitude in the instant of deliverance. They could not behold the 
workings of the heart, the quivering lips, the trickling tears, the loud and 
yet tremulous joys of the millions whom their vote of this night would for 
ever save from the cruelty of corrupted power. But, though they could not 
directly see the effect, was not the true enjoyment of their benevolence 
increased by the blessing being conferred unseen ? Would not the omnipo- 
tence of Britain be demonstrated to the wonder of nations, by stretching 
its mighty arm across the deep, and saving, by its fiat^ distant millions from 
destruction ? And would the blessings of the people thus saved, dissipate 
in empty air ? No ! if I may dare to use the figure, we shall constitute 
Heaven itself our proxy, to receive for us the blessings of their pious grati- 
tude, and the prayers of their thanksgiving. It is with confidence, there- 
fore, Sir, that I move you on this charge, ' That Warren Hastings be im- 
peached.' " 

The effect of this speech on the House was such, that an adjournment was 
carried without a division, in order to allow time for the mind of the com- 
mittee to cool, as it was impossible, after the eloquence displayed by Mr. 
Sheridan, to act dispassionately. 

Mr. Burke declared the speech to be the most astonishing effort of elo- 
quence, argument, and wit united, of which there was any record or tradi- 
tion. Mr. Fox said, " All that he had ever heard, all that he had ever read, 
when compared with it, dwindled into nothing, and vanished like vapour 
before the sun ;" and Mr. Pitt acknowledged that " it surpassed all the elo- 
quence of ancient and modern times, and possessed everything that genius or 
art could furnish to agitate or control the human mind." 

The debate was resumed on the following day, when the motion for the 
impeachment on this charge was carried by 175 to 68. 



122 THE MODEHN^ ORATOE- 

Speech on opening the seventh charge against Warren Hastings, accusing 
him of corruptly receiving presents, in direct violation of the Regulation Act 
of 1773. 2nd April, 1787. The House being in committee. 

Mr, Sheridan rose, and desired that a clause of the act of 1773 might be 
read. It was accordingly read as follows : — "No Governor-general, nor any 
of the Council, shall, directly or indirectly, accept, receive, or take from any 
person or persons, on any account whatsoever, any present, gift, donation, 
gratuity, or reward, pecuniary or otherwise, or any promise or engagement 
for any of the aforesaid." 

The preceding abstract having been read, Mr. Sheridan " begged leave to 
call to the recollection of the committee the favour which a right honour- 
able friend (Mr. Burke) had conferred upon him, when he informed them that 
it was his (Mr. Sheridan's) intention to use as much brevity in opening the 
charge upon the subject of the presents, as possible. In this declaration his 
right honourable friend had certainly spoken his sentiments ; and, as a part 
of the evidence given during the course of the preceding Friday threw a de- 
cided light upon some of the facts which were, previously to the intervention 
of that complete elucidation, in some degree obscured and doubtful, he felt, 
with redoubled force, his early and indisputable conviction, that brevity and 
perspicuity were the only matters necessary to imprint the truth of the facts 
contained in the charge upon the perceptions of the committee ; and to press 
home to their minds a lively and indignant sense of the enormity of the 
crimes of Mr. Hastings, as exemplified in these several and distinctly alleged 
accusations, if either the one or the other point remained yet to be accom- 
plished. Honoured, upon a former occasion, with the almost unprecedented 
indulgence of the committee, he would not ofier so ungrateful a return to the 
liberality of their feelings, as to suppose that they would not do him the jus- 
tice to believe that it was far indeed from any great willingness on his part 
that he had been induced to trespass a second time upon their patience ; but 
when he remembered that it would ill become him to refuse his feeble aid to 
those who had, with equal zeal in this momentous cause, stepped forward, as 
much as it was possible, under the inevitable restraints of an attention divided 
by occupations more multiplied and varied than his own ; when he considered 
the importance of the proceeding with respect to the impeachment of Mr. 
Hastings ; when he reflected how much the character of that House and its 
honour, and (what was still more material) the honour and the justice of the 
country, were implicated in the business ; when he consulted his own serious 
and sincere feelings on the subject, he could not refuse to lend himself to the 
occasion, and discharge his duty, by exerting his best endeavours to accelerate 
the progress of this interesting business, by assisting to draw it nearer to that 
conclusion, of which the distance appeared, at last, considerably diminished. 
The subject, which, at present, demanded an investigation, was necessarily 
much colder and drier than that which, upon a preceding occasion, he had 
been so liberally permitted to state to the committee. No horrible accounts 
of the sacrilegious plunder of defenceless parents, were now to be addressed 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. iZo 

to their painfully-excited notice ; no enumeration of barbarities perpetrated 
against the aged and guiltless mothers by their unnatural offspring ; but the 
narration was nevertheless equally, if not still more important, as it went to 
establish the stubborn fact, that corruption had been the leading principle of 
all the actions of Mr. Hastings in India ! though, heaven forbid that Mr. 
Hastings should prove guilty to the extent set up by his friends, in what had 
been denominated his defence ! Perhaps more hostile, than truly serviceable, 
was the anxiety with which the advocates of this gentleman met the deserved 
attack upon his flagrantly -reprehensible administration in the East Indies. 
They seemed mortally to have wounded the cause, by the rash eagerness 
which they discovered to support it, and by the firmness with which they 
were determined to bring resistance against every endeavour to assail it. 
They appeared unwilling to admit, that Mr. Hastings in India was a man of 
unbounded power; and that by this power he kept the whole body of natives 
in awe and terror. Once, indeed (Mr. Sheridan added) he thought him free 
from the vices of avarice and corruption; but, now, he had changed his 
opinion. These most unfortunate vindicators, themselves demolishing their 
own frail plans of exculpation, had, indeed, already anticipated the accusation 
in that House ; and in no particular did their zeal so far outstrip their discre- 
tion. Such rash defenders of his conduct, aware that scarcely any attainment 
was wanting except a conviction of the receipt of presents, and of an accu- 
mulation of private douceurs, to blacken the catalogue of his crimes, and to 
destroy all those pretensions which could in the minds of men soften their 
asperity, and allay their indignation at his enormities, had violently affirmed 
that Mr. Hastings did not amass treasures for his own use ; was not corrupt 
for interested purposes ; and, although, perhaps, improvident and profuse, 
was not mercenary, and, by a natural consequence, not rich.* But it indis- 
pensably behoved them to go beyond the frivolous attempt to establish such 
positions by mysterious excuses, and language so implicated as to become 
nearly unintelligible. They should have placed their vindications of him 
upon the broad and immoveable corner-stone of truth ; upon downright fair 
and absolute proofs ; and this the more especially, because, if the points for 
which they, with so blind a vehemence, had contended, were open to the 
admission of proofs, the means of introducing them were certainly in their 
power. Vainly, indeed, had these imprudent friends of Mr. Hastings exerted 
the faculties of their invention, to puzzle and to confound the mind ; nor was 
it astonishing that such extraordinary pains had proved the cause of raising a 
proportionate suspicion ; for in this, as in the generality of similar instances, 
when genius became racked under the consciousness of guilt, the ardour of 
defence left its propriety at an irrecoverable and shameful distance. There 
was an infirmity, a weakness, a something not to be described in human 
nature, which almost insensibly led men to think less of the foibles or the 
crimes of such individuals, whilst it could be proved that they had not been 

* Major Scott, a zealous defender of Warren Hastings, had on one occasion posi- 
tively asserted that the Governor- general's fortune did not exceed £50,000. 



124 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

actuated by mercenary motives; that they had not proceeded upon a principle 
of personal avarice; and that the increase of theii* own private property had 
not been the object of either their rapacity or their oppression. Swayed and 
influenced by this sort of weakness, Mr. Sheridan declared he had been among 
those who, at one time, conceived that Mr. Hastings was not stimulated in 
his conduct, as Governor-general, by any view to his own emolument ; and 
that his fortune was trifling, compared with the advantages which fell within 
his power. But the more close and minute investigation which it was his 
duty to apply to the facts contained in the charge, had completely altered his 
opinion ; and he scarcely harboured even the slightest doubt of being able to 
satisfy the committee, that Mr. Hastings had all along governed his conduct 
by corruption, as gross and determined, as his oppression and injustice had 
proved severe and galling. In reviewing his conduct, he had found it to 
spring from a wild, eccentric, and irregular mind. He had been everything 
by fits and starts. Now, proud and lofty ; now, mean and insidious ; now, 
generous ; now, just ; now, artful ; now, open ; now, deceitful ; now, de- 
cided ; in pride, in passion, in everything changeable, except in corruption. 
In corruption he had proved uniform, systematic, and methodical ; his revenge, 
a tempest, a tornado, blackening, in gusts of pride, the horizon of his domi- 
nion ; and carrying all before it. 

" Mr. Sheridan added, that, whilst he relied upon the power of exposing 
fully to the view of the committee the criminal proceedings of Mr. Hastings, 
he could not avoid observing, that the nature of his private transactions was 
such as rendered it, in general, extremely difficult to drag them out into a 
full light. They were the deeds of privacy, enveloped in a cloud of mystery. 
The committee (Mr. Sheridan said) would please to recollect the history of 
the act of 1773, which was passed with a view to deliver the princes of India, 
and the natives in general, from the consequences of the rapacity of the Com- 
pany's servants. They must well remember that it did, in the most clear and 
comprehensive terms which could be devised, prohibit all the said servants 
from receiving any present, gift, or donation, in any manner, or on any account 
whatsoever. That act, when it left the House of Commons in the form of a 
bill, had no clause in it authorising the institution of a civil suit ; but merely 
contained the authority and grounds of criminal prosecution of the parties 
accused of having violated positive injunctions. When the bill, however, 
came into the House of Lords, although the Commons had been satisfied with 
the fair prospect of a future security, and prevention of the evil which it held 
out, a noble earl, of the highest law authority (Earl Mansfield), expressed a 
different opinion ; and had deemed it so necessary to take all possible means 
of putting a stop to a practice so oppressive to the natives of India, and so 
disgraceful to the British name and character, that he inserted a clause, 
declaring that all presents accepted by the Company's servants, on any 
account whatsoever, were the property of the Company ; not meaning it as a 
fund for their benefit, but only in order to found a legal title to a civil suit, 
upon what is termed a fiction of law. Thus strengthened, the bill passed, 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 125 

and went out to India.* The construction, however, which Mr Hastings 
put upon it was, that, by the regulating act of 1773, he remained at liberty 
to receive money, provided that it Avas to and for the use of the Company ; 
and, under this construction he did, in a variety of instances, violate as 
clear and obvious an act of parliament as ever had passed — an act of parlia- 
ment, concerning the legal meaning of which he (Mr Sheridan) was persuaded 
there was scarcely a lawyer in the House who would stand up and declare 
that he had at any time entertained the smallest doubt, or felt the least 
diiRculty. It might be most unanswerably proved, from the words of Mr 
Hastings, that even he, notwithstanding his ungovernable infringement of so 
positive and plain a law, considered the act as amounting, under all descrip- 
tions whatsoever, to an absolute prohibition. When Colonel Champion,f in 
his letter written to this gentleman, requested to know from him whether 
he should be justified in receiving a present offered to him, the Governor- 
general answered, that the act was so strict and specific in its injunction, as 
to admit of no palliative — of no discretion on the part of the conduct of the 
servants of the East India Company ; that it was so plain, it could not be 

* The following are the sections of the regulating act (13 Geo. III., c. 63) in point: — 

Sec. xxii. *' And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that no Governor- 
general, or any of the Council of the said United Company's presidency of Fort William, 
in Bengal, or any chief justice or any of the judges of the Supreme Court of Judica- 
ture at Fort William aforesaid, shall directly or indirectly, by themselves or by any 
other person or persons, for his or their use, or on his or their behalf, accept, receive, or 
take of or from any person or persons, in any manner or on any account whatsoever, 
any present, gift, donation, gratuity, or reward, pecuniary or otherwise, or any 
promise or engagement for any present, gift, donation, gratuity, or reward ; and that no 
Governor-general, or any of the said Council, or any chief justice or judge of the said 
Court, shall carry on, or be concerned in, or have any dealing or transactions by way 
of traffic or commerce of any kind whatsoever, either for his or their use or benefit, 
profit or advantage, or for the beaefit or advantage of any other person or persons what- 
soever (the trade and commerce of the said United Company only excepted) ; any 
usage or custom to the contrary thereof in any wise notwithstanding," 

Sec. xxiv. enacts that ao person holduig a civil or military office under the Crown 
shall accept any donation or gratuity. 

Sec. xxvi. *♦ And it is hereby further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that every 
such present, gift, gratuity^ donation, or reward accepted, taken, or received, and all 
sucli deaUng or transaction by way of traffic or commerce of any kind whatsoever, car- 
ried on contrary to the true intent and meaning of this act, shall be deemed and con- 
strued to have been received, taken, had, and done to and for the sole use of the said 
United Company; and that the said United Company, upon waiving all penalties and 
forfeitures, shall and may sue and prosecute for the recovery of the same, or the full 
value of such present or gift, or the profits of such trade, respectively, together with 
interest at the rate of £5 per cent, per annum, from the time of such present, gift, gra- 
tuity, donation, or reward being received, or of such dealing or transaction, by way of 
traffic or commerce, as aforesaid, by action, for money had and received, to the use of 
the said Company.'' 

t The officer employed in the odious service of the subjugation of the Kohillas. ia 



126 THE MODERK OEATOR. 

misinterpreted ; and so strict, it could not be infringed. And surely (said 
Mr Sheridan) it was with this view only that the act was carried into a law 
by the British legislature, who could not mean to transfer to the Company 
the exclusive privilege of that injustice, from which its servants were so 
strictly prohibited ? It was a libel on the Parliament, to think they could 
intend to confer such an illegal and despotic power. Mr Hastings had also 
ventured to ask, whether, under the penalties denounced in the clause, it 
could, mth the least shadow of reason, be concluded that, if he designed to 
violate it by recovering money for his own private use, he would either select 
as his agents the public officers of the East India Company — all men of 
established characters — =or pay the sums which he meant to appropriate to 
his own purposes into the treasury of the Company ? A totally overthrowing 
answer to this question would be involved in the proofs now ready to be 
offered to the committee, that Mr Hastings had not suffered all the little 
sums which he took privately, either to pass through the hands of the public 
officers of the East India Company, or to be paid into the treasury. On seve- 
ral occasions he employed his own agents ; — if not, where was the possibility 
of accounting for his declaration to the Court of Dkectors, that the receipt of 
three lacks from Nobkissen"^' might, if he had thought proper, have been 
concealed from their knowledge for ever? And thus it was, that, with a 
disrespectful haughtiness, Mr Hastings took the liberty to upbraid and censure 
the Directors of the East India Company for ever taking his conduct into con- 
sideration ; or questioning him in respect to that which they had a right to 
know. He, besides, libelled them with the intimation that, unless they 
would connive at his keeping his share, they should not participate in the 
plunder. He urged them to say — ' For taking the money you are censur- 
able ; but, in applying it to our use, you are deserving of praise.' And such 
would virtually be their declaration (a species of logic well calculated to set 
his mind at rest !) if they granted him, on this head, that full and direct 
acquittal which he claimed and expected. 

" Besides his plea of the construction of the Act, which he set up in oppo- 
sition to the obvious meaning of it, he vindicated himself in the transgression 
of his orders from the Court of Directors, whenever their sense could not be 
twisted, by the arguments of state-necessity. This necessity, however, which 
goes so far as to supersede all positive instructions, should be evident as well 
as urgent. Mr Hastings never attempted to prove the existence of the ne- 
cessity. The doctrine of the state-necessity, assigned in every case — this 
new and firm ally of self-interested rapaciousness — was not to be received 
on the present occasion : the point in question would not warrant the excess 
of his presumption, when pleading in his defence of the violation of a positive 
law. Whatever Mr Hastings might have done with the money so extorted, 
was out of the question ; if he had applied it properly, the measure might bo 
suffered to come forward hereafter in extenuation of his guilt ; but, in the 

* The particulars of this loan to Mr Hastings appear p. X3X. 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 127 

mean time, the committee were to look to his disobedience of orders — to his 
infringement of the act of parliament. Under this view of the procedure, it 
must be manifest, that every rupee which he received was taken in full de- 
fiance of the law ; and that an action would lie against him for the recovery 
of the penalties. Much had been imputed by him to the generosity of 
the natives.* He did not question this virtue in the natives of Hindostan, 
neither did he doubt the expertness of Mr Hastings in working upon it 
most effectually ; for, with so much power in his hands, with an army of 
fifty or sixty thousand men, he had, most certainly, the means of exciting 
in their breasts the flame of benevolence ! As to the facts of corruptly 
taking presents, they naturally divided themselves into two heads — those 
which preceded the regulating act of 1773, and those which subsequently 
had arisen. He would begin with the latter, as they were more likely 
to elucidate the whole charge ; and, first, he would mention the present 
of the year 1780, of two lacks of rupees,f received of Cheit Sing, by the 
hands of his confidential servant, Buxey Sadanund. The present was re- 
ceived in June, but never mentioned to the Directors until the relation 
of the circumstances formed a part of the contents in Mr Hastings's letter 
of November in the same year ; and then it was not stated from whom 
the money came. In his defence, Mr Hastings had, for the first time, at 
the bar of the House, deposed that the money came from Cheit Sing ; 
and that acknowledgment had, perhaps, been occasioned by his having 
learned that an honourable member (Major Scott) had previously declared, 
when under examination before the select committee, that the money 
came from Cheit Sing. Mr Sheridan now read Major Scott's examina- 
tion ; and, commenting upon it, observed, that in one of the answers the 
honourable gentleman declared he believed Cheit Sing and the other na- 
tive princes would much rather give Mr Hastings a present of two or more 
lacks of rupees, then pay them to the Company, as part of their debt to the 
British Government ; a position which clearly proved, tiot the generosity of 
the native princes, but that the government of India was founded upon a 
system of corruption. But, such (it had been urged) were the prejudices of the 
people ! Could it be seriously imagined (and. this at a time whilst, as he 
should beg leave to impress again and again upon the minds of the committee, 
five lacks of rupees were due from that Rajah to the East India Company) :|: 
that, although the acceptance of the gift of the two lacks of rupees by the 
Governor-general of Bengal was not, perhaps, attended with a promise of a 
relaxation in the enforcement of the Company's demand, no friendly and se- 
ducing hint had been given of so generous a design ? A raw and artless 

* In March, 1784, when Mr Hastings had arrived at Lueknow, under pretence of 
settling the affairs of the country, he partially restored the Begums to their estates, ia 
compliance with the wishes of the Directors, but reported that those personages had 
made a voluntary concession of a large portion of their respective shares, 
t Equal to £20,000 sterling. 

British a: 

Jl2 



128 THE MODEKN OEATOK. 

negotiator might not, indeed, have thought of any compromise ; but have 
pursued the obvious line of conduct to one not half initiated into the prac- 
tices of extortion. Such ignorance of the true methods of procedure could 
not, without injustice, be imputed to Mr Hastings 1 The boon with which 
this gentleman was privately presented, did not, however, divert his indefati- 
gably faithful zeal from the prosecution of the demand of the East India 
Company ; yet, at the same time, it must be confessed, so valuable a gift was 
no inconsiderable drawback from the pecuniary powers of the Rajah to satisfy 
such a demand. And, indeed, the facility with which this plundered individual 
was made to submit to private extortion, only rendered him a more conve- 
nient tool to work upon in every case of public depredation. Two lacks 
cf rupees might be considered merely as a palatable whet to the voracity of 
his appetite ; and more money was the great cure in view for an inveterate 
disorder, when that ^vretched invalid, Sir Elijah Impey, underwent a dan- 
gerous and most fatiguing journey, purely for the benefit of his health !* 
With regard to the readiness of the native princes to make presents ; let a 
Governor-general, possessed of all the powers of government, and at the head 
of an army consisting of 60,000, and sometimes of 100,000 men, led and 
commanded by European officers, throw himself on the bounty of a people, 
and, doubtless, (as he before remarked) an unbounded spirit of benevolence 
would prevail. But to return to the present of Cheit Sing. 

" In his defence, Mr Hastings declared that, in 1780, he had formed the 
plan of drawing Mhadajee Scindia from Guzerat, to the defence of his own 
dominions, in hopes of laying the foundation of peace with the Mahrattas ; 
but that the plan had been opposed by an honourable gentleman,f on account 
of the additional expense which it would occasion. About that time, 
Cheit Sing sent his confidential servant, Buxey Sadanund, to Calcutta, 
to endeavour to procure a remission of the payment of the annual sum of 
five lacks of rupees, which the board had fixed as his proportion of the ex- 
penses of the war. That request Mr Hastings premptorily refused ; but assured 
Sadanund, that on the restoration of peace, the annual subsidy of five lacks 
should be discontinued. Sadanund wrote to his master, and received a com- 
mission from him to give Mr Hastings the strongest assurances of his future 
obedience and submission to the orders of government ; and he was further 
directed to request his (Mr Hastings's) acceptance of two lacks of rupees as a 
present for himself. His reply was, that he cordially received his submission 
and assuran.ces of obedience, but that he must absolutely refuse his present, 
which he did. This (Mr Sheridan said) was a sentence in which the words, 
as the fact afterwards proved, were a little transposed ; for the truth was, 
that Mr Hastings cordially received the present, and absolutely refused to 
accept Cheit Sing's submission and obedience ; since it appeared, that, on 

* See page 114. 

t Mr Philip Francis, one of the members of the Council of Bengal, which, besides, 
consisted of the Governor-general, Mr Hastings, General Claveiing, the Honourable 
George Monson, and Mr Richard Barwell. 



RICHARD BBINSLEY SHEIlIDA>f. 129 

iKe 20th, Mr Hastings sent for Sadanund, and told him he had re-considered 
his master's offer, and would accept the two lacks of rupees ; and the very 
next day (the 21st) he entered the minute under the authority of which the 
persecution of that unfortunate prince was begun, and from whence it was 
pursued to his ruin. Other men, perhaps, dissimilar in their views and 
temper from Mr Hastings, might have deemed it necessary to return the gift 
at the commencement of hostilities against the Rajah ; but the Governor- 
general, still inviolably faithful to the great principle of his system of pecu- 
lation, resolved not to lower his importance by giving back that money which 
he had once so condescendingly agreed to accept I And here, his proud 
and surly dignity broke out in all its plenitude ! Having taken a sum against 
law, although the purpose for which he grasped at it was frustrated, he 
scorned either to acknowledge the fact, or to relinquish the money. The 
reason of this was obvious. Finding Cheit Sing so easy a dupe to private 
extortion, Mr Hastings instantly marked him out as an object for public 
plunder. Having stated this transaction, Mr Sheridan took notice of what 
he styled the strange manner in which Mr Hastings had acted with respect 
to this present. To read the whole of the correspondence with gravity, was, 
he declared, utterly impossible ; for such a mixture of the diverting and the 
disgusting appeared in almost every letter, that the effect was at once most 
laughably ludicrous, and most seriously alarming. But he would just turn 
to an extract or two relative to the case in point. Mr Sheridan then read a 
part of Mr Hastings's letter of November, 1780, as follows : ' My present 
reason for reverting to my own conduct on the occasion which I have men- 
tioned,' (his offering a sum of money for the Company's service) ' is to ob- 
viate the false conclusion, or purposed misrepresentations, which may be 
made of it, either as an artifice of ostentation, or the effect of corrupt in- 
fluence, by assuring you that the money, by whatever means it came into my 
possession, was not my own.' Mr Sheridan commented on this, and then 
stated the conduct of the Directors respecting it, in all whose letters con- 
cerning presents, were (he said) to be found declarations to this effect : ' For- 
asmuch as you have taken presents, we greatly disapprove of your conduct ; 
but, inasmuch as you have applied those presents to the credit of our ac- 
count, we highly approve of your conduct.' It seemed evident that, upon 
one occasion, nine lacks of rupees had been received, and only six lacks 
brought into the treasury of Calcutta : the remaining three were not yet 
accounted for ; unless it could be thought a sufficient elucidation to declare 
that they were in the hands of Cantoo Baboo, Mr Hastings's black bribe- 
broker. But, was it probable that this man, absolutely dependent upon the 
Governor-general, and having amassed an immense fortune ujider his aus- 
pices, could have retained so large a sum of money within his hands ? No ! 
suspicion naturally, not to say unavoidably, turned round to the principal. 
Yet, in their letter of January, 1782, the Directors did not appear to be 
satisfied with Mr Hastings's account of the whole proceeding, but pronounced 
it at once extraordinary and mysterious. That it was mysterious was un- 



130 THE MODERN OEATOK. 

doubtedly true ; for, in such facts as taking of presents, and tHe mode of 
applying them to the Company's use, he would venture to assert, that there 
could be no mystery without the excitement of a just suspicion of guilt. 
The Directors, in their letter, observed, ' It does not appear to us, that there 
could be any real necessity for delaying to communicate to us immediate 
information of the channel by which the money came into Mr Hastings's 
possession, with a complete illustration of the cause or causes of so extraor- 
dinary an event.' And, in the same letter, speaking of this sum taken from 
Cheit Sing, and of other monies of a similar description, they said, ' We 
shall suspend our judgment, without approving in the least degree, or pro- 
ceeding to censure, the conduct of our Governor- general for this transaction.' 
The next time the Directors heard anything more of this, was by a letter, 
dated the 22nd of May, 1782, as Mr Larkins had sworn; but not sent till 
the 16th of December in the same year; and, singular was the fate of this 
letter of the Governor-general, which had, in so extraordinary a manner, 
been delayed in India ! This letter, Mr Larkins, with officious care, would 
not deliver until the very moment in Avhich the ship sailed, because he well 
recollected that letters had been either forgotten or mislaid, if given to the 
captain long before the departure of the vessel. The Resolution was the last 
ship of the season despatched for Europe, but it was not sufficiently well- 
manned to carry the Governor-general's letter, although the Governor- 
general declared that his good genius had dictated its contents. The Reso- 
lution was thought safe enough to bring a rich freight, man}'" valuable bills 
and bonds, and a variety of important letters and despatches ; but had the 
Governor- general's letter had been put on board the vessel, such a weighty 
cargo would undoubtedly have sunk her to the bottom of the ocean. That 
packet could only be brought home securely in the Lively. It should appear, 
therefore, that there was something in the very name of the ship which lent 
the letter safety, and adapted itself to its style and contents ; and yet this 
most unlucky letter appears, indeed, to have met with as many strange and, 
unexpected disappointments as that written by the miserable Romeo, and 
entrusted to the care of Friar John. 

" How equally unfortunate, also, must it have proved, if the Lively had been 
absent upon any other station. Some impure article might probably have 
made its way into the hold of the ill-nianned ancT crazy Resolution ! The 
superstitious piety of Mr Larkins might, perhaps, have inclined him to 
apprehend, that in such a case the Resolution would have foundered — have 
sunk, perhaps, in the Ganges, without even one convenient diving negro near 
to rescue the important letter from the devouring waves ! Yet, even thus 
rescued, the letter might have suffered under a total and dreadfully irre- 
mediable obliteration of its interior contents, with not one single vestige 
of writing left, excepting the address : and, after all, (intrepid though the 
sailors are) the Resolution had not a crew sufficiently daring to venture upon 
carrying to England . . . the justification of Mr Hastings ! 

"On this occasion, it seemed fair to say, why not send the letter to Madras^ 



HICHARD BRINSLEY SHEKIDAX. 131 

for the chance of a ship from that settlement ? Mr Larkins despatched this 
letter from the country, and to Mr Auriol, the Secretary at Calcutta ; yet, he 
would not touch it, but caused it to be returned, declaring that it was 
contrary to the act of Parliament for any of the Company's servants to write 
home to the Directors. Thus it failed in one instance. Mr Sheridan stated 
how it had failed in others, and traced all the circumstances which had tended 
to impede its being despatched by the Resolution, till, just on the eve of its 
being sent awaj^, Mr Larkins advised Mr Hastings to open it, in order to 
suffer him to make an affidavit that it was written on the 22nd of May ; and 
to let the affidavit accompany it. Mr Larkins accordingly took an affidavit 
before Mr Justice Hyde, that the letter had been written by him on the 22nd 
of May, from rough drafts, furnished by Mr Hastings. This was a proof 
that Mr Hastings thought the letter of the most serious importance to 
himself: and that it was extremely material for him to establish the fact, 
that it had not been written on the pressure of the suspicion, but that the 
mean imputation to which the delay exposed him, from the occasion which 
the late parliamentary inquiries had furnished, was a matter to be regarded 
by him as singularly unfortunate. Undoubtedly , the run of much ill-luck had 
gone against him ; and so unpromising were appearances in his favour, that 
it did not require any great share of incredulity to suspect that the letter was 
written, not before, but after he had heard of certain changes in the politics 
of this country, which might make him at length adopt a new opinion with 
respect to the best artifice for his own security ; and conceive that a voluntary 
confession would prove one of the least fallible preservations from detection. 
The conduct of Mr Larkins, most certainly, was suspicious ; and Mr Sheridan 
said, he trusted that no person would do him the injustice to conceive that 
he harboured cruel, and, of course, unworthy notions against manltind, 
when he observed thai he saw the workings of gratitude so powerful in the 
hearts of individuals, as to eradicate every other feeling of duty. Mr Larkins 
had taken the most extraordinary pains to acquit his friend and patron, Mr 
Hastings. How well his efforts succeeded, the committee must determine. 
Mr Sheridan now remarked, that he should beg leave to enter upon a short 
investigation of the second money transaction, which Mr Hastings had repre- 
sented as having some affinity with the former anecdote ; and this was a 
demand upon the Council for money of his own, described as having been 
expended in the Company's service, to the amount of £34,500, for which he 
had desired to have three bonds ; and here, it seemed necessary to refer to 
the defence of Mr Hastings respecting the circumstances of this transaction. 
In that defence, the Governor- general stated, that, being in the year 1783 in 
actual want of a sum of money for his private expenses, owing to the 
Company's not having at the time sufficient cash in their treasury to pay his 
salary, he borrowed three lacks of rupees from Rajah Nobkissen, an inhabi- 
tant of Calcutta, whom he desired to call upon him with a bond properly 
filled up ; that Nobkissen did call ; but, when Mr Hastings was going to 
execute it, Nobkissen entreated that he would rather accept the money than 



132 THE MODEEN OUATOR. 

execute the bond. In short, that he neither accepted the offer, nor refused 
it ; but kept the rajah, during the space of several months, plunged into a 
state of the most tormenting anxiety^ And now it might seem reasonable to 
imagine, that, at last, the matter dropped ; — -quite the contrary; Mr Hastings 
took the money, but neither gave the bond, nor was mean enough to think of 
returning the money ; his pride forbade it ; it was a fresh proof of the dread 
which the natives entertained of the Governor's pledge of faith. ' Take my 
money, and welcome,' said Nobkissen ; * but place me not within the peril 
of your promise ; pledge not your faith to me ! I know too well the 
consequences ; I have heard of the treaty of Chunar ;* I have heard of the 
usage of Fyzoolah Khan ! f I have heard of other shameful circumstances 
which followed the most solemn engagements of the Governor-general of 
India V 

"Thus did Mr Hastings fill the breast of this unfortunate man with painful 
apprehensions, lest when he returned home he should find a bond thrust, 
perhaps, underneath his door at midnight, or by some unworthy stratagem 
placed upon his table. He knew too well, that all who had been honoured 
Avith his favour became irrecoverably ruined. His various guarantees, his 
treaties, and his sacred compacts, with every lamentable consequence, were 
present to his afiiicted imagination. The rapacity of Mr Hastings he could 
tolerate ; but he shrunk with horror from his protestations and his pledge of 
faith ; a most unanswerable proof, that of all the monied men plundered by the 
Governor- general, Nobkissen entertained the truest notions of his character. 
In mercy, however, Mr Hastings came away from Calcutta Avithout acting so 
cruelly as to send Nobkissen the bond ; or so pitifully, as to repay the money; 
and, upon this occasion, it ought to be recollected, that Nobkissen was; 
notoriously the most avaricious Hack man in Bengal : but, in the description 
of this insatiable thirst for money, it was not meant to draw an invidious t)om- 
parison between the rajah and a disinterested European ! He would not 
insist on the unprecedented charge of contingent expenses for a period of 
more than twelve years ; nor on the particulars of this charge, which was 
principally for translating the Mahomedan laws, which he had destroyed, and 
other services of a nature equally useless. In that famous letter which, in 
his progress to Lucknow, he wrote to the Directors, he had the assurance to 
request that this sum might be allotted to his use, that he might not be 
doomed to poverty and obscurity, after a life spent in the accumulation of 

* Seep. 107. 

t The Nabob of Ferruckabad, and one of the Rohilla chieftains, from whom Mr 
Hastings withdrew the British protection in consequence of a bribe of £100,000 from 
the Vizier of Oude, notwithstanding a treaty concluded by him with the Vizier Sujah 
Dowlah, and guaranteed by the English Government, by which he was invested with 
the Jaghire of Rampore and some other districts in Rohilcund, in return for which he 
was bound to keep up a certain military force in aid of the British Government. 
The impeachment of Mr Hastings for his conduct towards Fyzoolah Khan had been 
voted by a majority of 96 to 37. 



felCKAilD BUINSLEY SHERir>A5s\ IS^ 

trores for their advantage. But he had gone further ; he had taken it upon 
himself to place this sum to his credit without the consent of the Company ; 
thus ^;flry«Vzy, contrary to law, a debt which he had contracted against authority I 
This proceeding could not be justified by Mr Hastings, even on the principles 
which he had himself laid down in his construction of the Regulating Act : 
for here he must acknowledge that he had taken money privately, which he 
did not apply to the use of the Company, but to his otvn ; as, whether he 
seized it in the first instance, or paid it to himself afterwards without autho- 
rity, it was exactly the same. Hitherto nothing arose, excepting mystery and 
obscurity in the transactions, and in the defence made by the Governor-general ; 
but if the committee were disposed to think (as he conceived they might be 
inclined) that no circumstances could exceed those to which he adverted, 
they were mistaken — for all was simplicity and plain dealing itself, when 
compared with what followed ! 

"Mr Sheridan now remarked, that he should next offer to the consideration 
of the committee a manoeuvre (of which the particulars were not included in 
the charges) for the humane purpose of squeezing ten lacks of rupees from the 
nabob vizier, at Chunar.*^' The circumstances of this transaction had been too 
recently discussed to render much additional information necessary. This 
generous act was to assume the curious form of the refusal of an offer which 
the vizier was supposed to have made ! Mr Middleton, the resident appointed 
by Mr Hastings — Mr Middleton, who had gone such lengths with him 
before, on a sudden became conscientious ; and, like a tick with a plethora 
of blood, was satiated with plunder : — quite gorged, and torpid ! Even he 
\vrote to Mr Hastings, that he could not think of accepting this offer (which, 
however, the nabob had not at any time made), and Major Palmer was 
actually sent to persuade him not keep the resolution to which he had come, of 
presenting Mr Hastings with another £100,000 — thus, by a kind of ingenuity, 
by a perversion unknown in this dull climate, conveying a demand for money 
under the form of declining to accept it ! Concerning this circumstance, it ap- 
peared reasonable to remark, that when Major Palmer and Major Davy called 
upon the nabob for the money, the latter declared that he had never before 
heard that so extraordinary a demand was in contemplation ! And how 
deeply must the merciful feelings of the committee become wounded, should 
they advert to the contents of a letter from this unfortunate and persecuted 
prince to Mr Hastings, in which, painting in the strongest colours his extreme 
distress, he complains bitterly of the exaction ; yet he says, ' Being remediless, 
I felt myself obliged to comply with what was required ;' and then he con- 
cludes with this artless and affecting observation : ' Blessed as I am with so 
compassionate a friend as your highness, how does it happen that I am re- 
duced to such a state of miserable distress ?' On this occasion, Mr Sheridan 
said, that he must beg leave to enforce strongly upon the attention of 
the committee, that the reason advanced to justify the seizure (for it was far 

* On the occasion of the plunder of the Begums, see page 106. 



134 'i'HE MODERN OKATOlt. 

from meriting a milder term) of the £100,000, — the time when it was paid,— » 
the manner in which it was paid, — and the persons to whom it was paid, 
had been all brought into full view ; and unanswerably stigmatised as the 
falsest statements by the Governor-general. He had written word to the 
Directors, that the exigency of his affairs, — the want of cash to pay the army, 
and other things pressing, had caused him to accept the present of ten lacks 
of rupees, at the moment when he kncAv that the nabob vizier's affairs were in 
a state of the extremest indigence. Upon that ground he had vindicated the 
taking of the £100,000; but it came out afterwards, in the most positive de- 
claration, that he had not the sum in cash, but in bills on Gopal Das, not 
payable until the expiration of some succeeding months. If that was true, his 
first ground of justification failed him; for the immediate wants of the army 
could acquire no relief from bills on Gopal Das, which had still several 
months to run. In the list of the persons to whom the money had been paid, 
the name of Mrs Hastings was inserted. He should have felt (Mr Sheridan 
added) great uneasiness at taking the liberty to introduce a lady's name in 
such a business, if it had not been for her. complete exculpation ; but the fact 
stood thus : The entry of Mrs Hastings's name, and those of the other 
persons, as the receivers of the sum, was a fallacy ; and it was equally a 
fallacy that the ten lacks were paid by bills on Gopal Das ; because that man 
was at the time detained by Cheit Sing ; and let the committee ask them- 
selves, if the Governor-general would not have more credit with Gopal Das 
than this miserable, moneyless, and ruined prince ? Great part of the sum 
given was paid in rupees ; and it was clearly a portion of the plunder of the 
unfortunate princesses, the mother and grandmother of Asoph ul Dowlah. 
As to the nabob, his distracted supplications Avere of no avail ; and his 
treasury was swept, without the least attention to his prayer, that his rapa- 
cious pillager would leave him at least as much as might prove sufficient for 
the ordinary charges of his household. 

" Mr Sheridan next stated the application of the Rajah of Berar, to the 
Governor-general and Council, for a sum of money to relieve his affairs, by 
paying his army ; the whole amount of which sum was computed at sixteen 
lacks of rupees. This application was rejected as inconvenient to be complied 
with ; but afterwards the Governor-general took the whole responsibility of 
the measure upon himself, and lent the Rajah of Berar three lacks. 

"Mr Sheridan now mentioned the complaint* laid before the council board 

* There were several charges brouglit against Mr Hastings by Nuncomar, and 
among the rest, that of his having committed the young Nabob of Bengal to the guar- 
dianship of Munny Begum in consideration of a bribe ; but, in order to judge fairly of 
the truth and weight of the accusations, and to understand the allusions made here- 
after by Mr Sheridan, it is necessary to give a slight sketch of the history of the 
accuser. The Maharajah Nuncomar was a Hindoo Brahmin, and possessed all the 
talent and deceit characteristic of the Bengalees. During the government of Lord 
Clive, he had been a competitor with a Persian Mussulman, of the name of Mohammed 
Rcza Khan (a man of integrity according to the Indian standard of morality), for an 
office which, at that time, the Company were in the habit of entrusting to a great native 



mCHABD iJHlNSLEY SHERIBAlC. 135 

by the Hajah Nuncomar, and the £15,000 taken from Munny Begum, tcT 
whom was entrusted the sole collection of the revenues. The Directors had 
instructed him to appoint a minister (a guardian) to superintend Moharek 
ul Dowlah, the young Nabob of Bengal, and to manage his affairs. The 
person* whom he chose for this employment was the step-mother of the 
Nabobj and widow of the deceased Nabob — Meer Jaffier, an ignorant woman, 
drawn originally from the lowest class of life, and by Mr Hastings from the 

minister, and which related to the internal administration of Bengal. Lord Clive» 
knowing the infamous character of Nuncomar, who had been engaged and detected in 
conspiracies against the English, decided in favour of Mohammed Beza Khan, although 
in opposition to the urgent solicitation of the Nabob of Bengal, over whom Nuncomar 
had acquired great influence. On Warren Hastings becoming Governor, Mohammed 
Reza Khan had been seven years in office, and the infant son of Meer Jaffier was nabob, 
under the guardianship of the minister. In consequence of the revenues of Bengal 
being considered to have decreased through the mismanagement of the minister, which 
idea was encouraged by Nuncomar to his utmost power, Warren Hastings was ordered 
by the Directors to remove Mohammed Beza Khan from his office. Soon after his 
removal, a change was made in the mode of administration ; the office held by 
Mohammed Beza Khan was transferred to the servants of the Company, and the Nabob 
was no longer allowed to have any visible share in the government, but was to receive, 
in lieu, an annual allowance, and his person was confided to the care of Munny Begum, 
one of the ladies of his father's harem. Mohammed Beza Khan, after long delay, was 
tried for his supposed offences, and acquitted, to the great disappointment of Nuncomar, 
who was prominent in the prosecution. On the new government of India being formed 
in 1773, and the arrival of the Council in India, a quarrel immediately ensued between 
Warren Hastings and the majority of the Council, and, being in the minority on all 
questions, he was looked on as a fallen mar, and consequently deserted by all the 
sycophants who till then had courted his favour. Nuncomar, who had always been 
the secret enemy of Hastings, seizing this favourable opportunity, came forward per- 
sonally before the Council, and formally accused him of having put up offices for sale, 
and of having received bribes for his connivance at the escape of offenders ; in parti- 
cular, of having acquitted Mohammed Beza Khan in consideration of a large sum of 
money, and of having committed the young Nabob to the care of Munny Begum for a 
like cause. The Council, in spite of the protest of Hastings against their proceedings, 
decided against the Governor- general, and declared the charge made out. So far was 
Nuncomar triumphant ; but Hastings, thus driven to extremities, and finding that 
either he or Nuncomar must fall, succeeded in crushing his rival in the following 
unexpected manner : — The Supreme court of Bengal, as established by Act of Parliament, 
had a jurisdiction entirely free from the control of the Council, and was presided over 
by Sir Elijah Impey, the friend of Hastings. The power of this court was now ex- 
ercised for the destruction of Nuncomar. He was suddenly arrested on a charge of 
forging a bond six years before (an offence which in India was hardly considered 
criminal) ; bail to any amount was^ refused, although its acceptance was demanded by 
the Council : he was with all speed tried before Sir Elijah Impey and an English 
jury, found guilty of the offence, and immediately ordered for execution, which sen- 
tence was most unrelentingly carried out in spite of all remonstrance. Hastings 
thus freed himself of a most dangerous enemy : the position in which he was himself 
placed, may be considered some palliation for his share in the ti'ansaction, but the con- 
duct of Sir Elijah Impey can never be justified. 

* Munny Begum. 



136 Tlii; MOlDEIlN ORATOK. 

recesses of the Zenana, to instruct her princely pupil in all the arts of future; 
government! This curious appointment would certainly prove more the 
subject of indignation than surprise to the committee, when they should 
discover, from unquestionable authority, that it was assigned for the valuable 
consideration of £15,000 to himself, and the same sum to Mr Middleton. 
Mr Hastings's transaction with Cawn Jewan Khan was the next object of 
Mr Sheridan's animadversion. This man Avas appointed Phousdar of 
Houghly, with an income of 72,000 sicca rupees a year — of which Mr 
Hastings was charged with taking half, besides 4000 allotted to his black 
broker ; and the accusation was made, as well as that proffered by Nun- 
comar, in full Council. The Council proposed to inquii-e into the truth of it, 
and required Cawn Jewan Khan to answer to the facts ujjon oath ; to which 
procedure he and Mr Hastings peremptorily objected ; and that Cawn Jewan 
Khan could not, by virtue of his religion, take an oath, Avas the weak excuse 
of Mr Hastings ; but in the words used in the answer of Mr Hastings to the 
charge, he might retort the falsity upon him. Cawn Jewan Khan was, as a 
punishment for his contumacy, deprived of his employment ; but on the death 
of Colonel Monson, which gave Mr Hastings, by virtue of his casting vote, a 
majority in the Council, he was reinstated at the motion of the Governor. He 
left it to the reflection of the committee, whether any circumstantial proof — 
and the case would admit of nothing further — could more clearly trace the 
guilt of Mr Hastings, or establish the certainty of private practices of a cor- 
rupt nature between him and the Phousdar ? The whole was a studied maze 
of theft, bribery, and corruption ; unparalleled even in the most ignominious 
annals of East India delinquency. With respect to the unfortunate Pajah 
Nuncomar, he was first indicted for a conspiracy ; but that failing, he was 
tried on an English penal statute (which, although rendered by a stretch of 
poM-er most dreadfully forcible in Bengal, did not reach even to Scotland !) 
he was convicted and hanged for a crime (forgery) which was not capital in 
his own country ! Whatever were the circumstances of this judicial proceed- 
ing (which might be the subject of another inquiry), they could not fail of 
exciting apprehensions and terrors in the natives, which would put a stop to 
all further informations against the Governor. Duiing this transaction, Mr 
Hastings — in direct contradiction to the opinions of General Clavering, 
Colonel Monson, and Mr Francis — repeatedly asserted, that it was repugnant 
to the customs, either of the Mussulmen or Hindoos, to take an oath ; yet, 
on a later occasion, he justified himself in all his proceedings at Benares, by 
the affidavits of persons of the religion which he mentioned, taken before the 
upright judge"^ of the supreme court of Calcutta ! It had been allowed, in 
the evidence given at the bar, that all India was in consternation at the 
event ; and considered the death of Nuncomar as a punishment for having 
advanced charges against Mr Hastings. Who, after such an event, would 
dare step forward as his accuser ? None would venture ; and the Governor 

* Sir Elijah Impey. 



lliCHAKB BRTKSLEY SHERIDAN. 187 

might, in future, pillage the natives as he thought proper, without any fear 
of being disturbed by their invocations for justice ! But this justice, he 
hoped and trusted, would not be refused in a British Parliament ; they 
owed it to their own dignity, to the support of the resolutions into which 
they had already entered, to the honour of the country, the prosperity of 
the government, and the rights of humanity ! The present charge (he should 
beg leave to repeat) was not, perhaps, of that nature which came home most 
effectually to the feelings of men ; it could not excite those sensations of 
commiseration or abhorrence which a ruined prince, a royal family reduced 
to want and wretchedness, the desolation of kingdoms, or the sacrilegious 
invasion of palaces, would certainly inspire ! In conclusion, Mr Sheridan 
observed, that, although within this rank but infinitely too fruitful wilder- 
ness of iniquities — within this dismal and unhallowed labyrinth, it was most 
natural to cast an eye of indignation and concern over the wide and towering 
forests of enormities, all rising in the dusky magnificence of guilt ; and to fix 
the dreadfully excited attention upon the huge trunks of revenge, rapine, 
tyranny, and oppression ; yet it became not less necessary to trace out the 
poisonous weeds, the baleful brushwood, and all the little, creeping, deadly 
plants, which were, in quantity and extent, if possible, more noxious. The 
whole range of this far- spreading calamity was sown in the hot-bed of cor- 
ruption ; and had risen, by rapid and mature growth, into every species of 
illegal and atrocious violence ! Upon this ground, most solemnly should he 
conjure the committee to look to the malignant source of every rooted evil ; 
and not to continue satisfied with reprobating effects, whilst the great cause 
enjoyed the power of escaping from merited crimination, and the infliction of 
a just punishment. He now moved, ' That the committee, having considered 
the present article of charge of high crimes and misdemeanours against 
Warren Hastings, Esq., late Governor- general of Bengal, is of opinion, that 
there is ground for impeaching the said Warren Hastings, Esq., of high 
crimes and misdemeanours upon the matter of the said article.' " 
The motion was carried by 165 votes to 54. 



Speech delivered in Westminster Hall, in support of the impeachment 
of Warren Hastings, Esq., on the second charge, in respect of his conduct 
towards the Begums of Oude. Mr Adam, on April 15th, 1788, had opened 
the charge, and Mr Sheridan now summed up the evidence. His address 
occupied four days, and at the conclusion Mr Burke declared, " that no 
species of oratory, no kind of eloquence that had been heard in ancient or 
modern times ; nothing which the acuteness of the bar, the dignity of the 
senate, or the morality of the pulpit, could furnish, was equal to what they 
had that day heard in Westminster hall ; that no species of composition 
existed of which a complete and perfect specimen might not be culled out of 
this speech ; which he was persuaded had left too strong an impression on 
the minds of that assembly to be easily obliterated." 



138 THE MODERN OUATOR.- 

On the first day, Tuesday, June 3rd, he dilated on the importance of the 
investigation, and on the policy as well as the justice of vindicating the 
character of Great Britain in India ; but yet disclaimed any desire that Mr 
Hastings should be condemned unless his guilt were legally and indisputably 
established by proof. He commented severely on the disavowal by Mr 
Hastings of the admission and statement he had made in his defence before 
the House of Commons ; and then proceeded with great force to condemn his 
cruel conduct towards the Begum Princesses, and his total disregard to the 
prejudices of the natives of India, in violating the sanctity of the female 
apartments ; and, after exposing the infamy of the treaty of Chunar, con- 
cluded in a strain of bitter irony, in denouncing the conduct of Sir Elijah 
Impey. The court having adjourned to Friday, June 6th, on that day, 

Mr Sheridan resumed his speech, by expressing his satisfaction that, in 
the interval of the adjournment, the remaining part of the evidence, &;c., 
had been printed and laid before their lordships; as it was the wish of the 
managers that every document should be before the court at the time, for 
the purpose of determining with more accuracy whether they had or had 
not borne out the charges which they presented. 

Recurring then to the affidavits^' taken by Sir Elijah Impey, at Lucknow, 
" they formed," he observed, " a material article in the defence of Mr Hast- 
ings ; and on the decision of their lordships respecting the weight of the alle- 
gations which they contained, a great part of this question would finally 
depend. With respect to one part of the charge made on the Begums — 
their having shown a uniform spirit of hostility to the British government 
— it had not only failed, but it was absolutely abandoned by the counsel for 
the prisoner, as not being supported by a tittle of evidence. In deciding on 
the other parts of this charge — their having committed an overt act of re- 
bellion — their having inflamed the Jaghu-dars,f and excited the discontents 
in Oude — their lordships were to consider the situation in which Mr Hast- 
ings stood at the time these charges were made. Having failed in his 
attempt at Benares, his mind was entirely directed to the treasures of the 
Begums. He knew that such was the situation into which he had plunged 
the afiairs of the Company, that he could not address his venal masters 
unless some treasure was found. He had, therefore, stood forward as an 
accuser where he was also to preside as a judge ; and with much caution 
should that judge be heard, who has apparently a profit on the conviction, 
and an interest in the condemnation of the party to be tried. He would not 
from this infer, however, that the charge was groundless ; but he would 
argue, that, until fully proved, it should not meet with implicit credit. It 
was obvious, also, that the attempt said to have been made by the Begums, 
to dethrone the Nabob and extirpate the English, was in the highest degree 
improbable ; but he would not infer from thence that it was impossible ; 

* In support of the charge of conspiracy by the Begums, to dethrone the Nabob and 
expel the English. 

t Or native leaseholders. 



UtOHAHl) BRINSLEY SItEllIllAN. ' 139 

tliere is in human nature a perverse propensity to evil, which had sometimes 
caused the perpetration of bad acts without any obvious gratification result- 
ing to the perpetrator. All he should claim, therefore, was, that the accu- 
sations brought by Mr Hastings against the Begums should undergo a 
candid examination, and that probable evidence, at least, should be brought 
to the support of charges in themselves improbable. 

" Mr Hastings, in his defence, had complained that his prosecutor had 
attempted to blacken these affidavits as rash, irregular, and irrelevant, when 
they had been authenticated by the presence of Sir Elijah Impey, and, as he 
also observed, being taken in an inquiry directed solely to establish the 
guilt of Cheit Sing, they were merely an accessary evidence in the present 
case, and were therefore less liable to suspicion. The reasoning, in this last 
instance, Mr Sheridan observed, would undoubtedly be good ; but the asser- 
tion, that the inquiries were exclusively directed to the crimination of Cheit 
Sing, had been proved an absolute falsehood, as they were really intended 
to justify what was afterwards to be done. With respect to the epithets 
bestowed on those afiidavits by his honourable friend, the truth would best 
appear from a review of their contents. Mr Sheridan then proceeded to 
remark on the affidavits severally, as far as they related to charges against 
the Begums. Those of the Jemmadars, or native subaltern officers, con- 
tained nothing, it appeared, but vague rumour and improbable surmise. 

" One deponent, who was a black officer in one of our regiments of sepoys, 
stated, that having a considerable number of people as hostages in a fort 
where he commanded, and who had been sent thither by Colonel Hannay, 
the country people got round the fort, and demanded that they should be 
delivered up ; but, instead of complying with their request, he put almost 
twenty of them to death : he afterwards threw down some of the battlements 
of the fort, and killed four more of the hostages ; and, on another day, the 
heads of eighteen more were struck off, and among them the head of a great 
rajah of the country, by order of Colonel Hannay. The people around 
were enraged at this execution, and crowded about the fort ; some of them 
were heard to say, that the Begums had offered a reward of one thousand 
rupees for the head of every European, one hundred for the head of every 
sepoy officer, and ten for the head of a common sepoy. But it appeared 
afterwards, pretty clearly, that no such rewards had, in reality, been offered ; 
for when Captain Gordon's detachment took the field, the people who 
surrounded him told him, that if he would deliver up his arms and his 
baggage, they would let him and his men continue their route unmolested : 
so little were they disposed to enrich themselves by the slaughter of the 
British forces, that when Captain Gordon's detachment was reduced, by 
desertion, to ten men, and when the slaughter or capture of them would 
have been of course a work of very little difficulty, the country people re- 
mained satisfied with the dispersion of the detachment, and then returned 
to their homes, without attempting to attack the poor remains of that de- 
tachment — the ten men who continued with Captain Gordon. That gentle- 



140 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

man, in his affidavit, supposed the Begums to have encouraged the country 
people to rise, because, when he arrived at the bank of the river Saunda 
Nutta, on the opposite bank of which stands the town of Saunda, the phous- 
dar, or governor, who commanded there for the Bow Begum, in whose 
jaghire the town lay, did not instantly send boats to carry him and his men 
over the river ; and because the phousdar pointed two or three guns across 
the river. Now, admitting both these facts to be true, they could not affect 
the Begums, for it was the duty of the phousdar to be on his guard, and not 
to let troops into his fort until he knew for what purpose they appeared 
before it. In the next place, there was nothing in the affidavit which indi- 
cated that the guns were pointed against Captain Gordon and his men ; on 
the contrary, it was possible that these guns had made that gentleman's 
pursuers disperse ; for it was rather remarkable, that they should pursue 
him whilst he was in force, and should give over the pursuit when, by the 
desertion of his soldiers, his detachment was reduced to ten men. However, 
whatever might have been the cause of their dispersion, Captain Gordon at 
length got across the river, and found himself in a place of safety as soon as 
he got into a town that was under the authority of the Begums, who caused 
him to be sent afterwards, under a protecting guard, to Colonel Hannay. 
This circumstance was suppressed in the affidavit made afterwards by Cap- 
tain Gordon : for what purpose it was not for him to judge. 

" Hyder Beg Khan, the minister of the Nabob, though swearing both to 
rumour and to fact, could mention no particulars of an insurrection which 
was to have dethroned his Sovereign. Nor was the evidence of Colonel 
Hannay, and the other English officers, more conclusive : loud suspicions 
appeared to have been propagated at a time of general disturbance, and 
when the flames of war were raging in the neighbouring province of Benares. 
Mr Middleton,*- though swearing after he had received his final orders from 
Mr Hastings respecting the seizure of the treasures, could only say, that he 
believed the Begums had given countenance to the rebels, and, he had 
heard, some aid. The whole of the depositions, Mr Sheridan observed, were 
so futile, that were they defended in an inferior court of justice ; he was con- 
vinced he should be forbidden to reply, and told he was combating with that 
which was nothing ! 

" With respect to the first part of the charge, the rebellion of the Begums, 
he could find no trace of any such transaction. 

" The best antiquarian in our society," said Mr Sheridan, " would be, after 
all, never the wiser ! Let him look where he would, where can he find any 
vestige of battle, or a single blow ? In this rebellion, there is no soldier, 
neither horse nor foot ; not a man is known fighting ; no office-order sur- 
vives, not an express is to be seen. This great rebellion, as notorious as our 
'45, passed away — unnatural, but not raging — beginning in nothing, and 
ending, no doubt, just as it began ! 

* The resident agent at the court of the Nabob. 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 141 

" If rebellion, my lords, can thus engender unseen, it is time for us to 
look about. What, hitherto, has been dramatic, may become historical ; — 
Knightsbridge may at this moment be invested ; and all that is left us, nothing 
but the forlorn hope of being dealt with according to the statute, by the 
sound of the Riot act, and the sight, if it can be, of another Elijah I 

" The counsel had thought proper to dwell for a time on the Nabob's 
going to Fyzabad,* on his return from Chunar, attended by a guard of 
2,000 men. Mr Middleton being asked, whether these men were well-ap- 
pointed, though on another occasion he had declared himself no military 
man, caught in the instant a gleam of martial memory, and answered in the 
affirmative. The contrary, however, was proved by the evidence of Captain 
Edwards, who attended the Nabob as his aide-de-camp, and also that those 
troops were actually mutinous for their pay, who were then taken to stop 
the progress of disaffection ! Yet he would agree to all that the counsel re- 
quired ; — he would suffer the whole 2,000 men to enter full trot into the city 
of Fyzabad, ' whilst Middleton stood by out of his wits, with a gleam of 
martial memory ; and whilst Sir Elijah, like a man going to learn fashions 
or freedom in England, takes a sportive tour, as smooth and well-beaten as 
Old Brentford ;' for Captain Edwards had fully proved that it was merely 
the usual guard of the Nabob. It would, therefore, have been disrespectful 
to have gone with less attendance ; he could have no motive for going incog., 
unless he might have intended to make himself a perfect match for the insur- 
rection, which was also incog., or thought that a rebellion without an army 
would be most properly subdued by a prince without a guard. 

" Another supposed proof of the disaffection of the Begums was brought, 
by alleging that 1,000 Nudjies had been raised at Fyzabad, and sent to the 
assistance of Cheit Sing ;f and this for no other reason than a detachment of 
the same number being in the list of the forces of the rajah ! This single 
circumstance was taken as full and complete evidence of the identity of those 
troops. It was no matter that the officer second in command with Cheit 
Sing had sworn that the detachment came from Lucknow, and not from 
Fyzabad ; this Mr Hastings would have to be a trifling mistake of one capital 
for another ! The same officer, however, had also deposed, that the troops 
were of a different description ; those of the Begum being swordsmen, and 
those in the service of the rajah matchlock-men. The inference to be made, 
therefore, undoubtedly was, that the detachment did actually come from 
Lucknow; not sent, perhaps, by the Nabob, but by some of the Jaghirdars, 
his favourites, who had abundant power for that purpose, and whose aversion 
to the English had always been avowed. The name of Sadib Ally, his half- 
brother, had been mentioned as being highly criminal in these transactions ; 
but to the question, * Why was he not punished ? ' Sir Elijah Impey had 
given the best answer at the bar, by informing their lordships that Sadib 

* The place of residence of the Beg-ums. 
t As to the proceedings against Cheit Sing, see p. 106. 

L 



142 THE MODERN OEATOE. 

Ally was miserably poor ! He had, therefore, found protection in his poTerty, 
and safety in his insolvency. Every common maxim of judging on such 
occasions was certain to be overturned by Mr Hastings. It was generally 
supposed that the needy were the most daring ; and that necessity was the 
strongest stimulus to innovation ; but the Governor- general, inverting this 
proposition, had laid it down as an axiom, that the actions of the poor were 
sufficiently punished by contempt ; that the guilt of an offender should in- 
crease in a precise ratio with his wealth ; and that, in fine, where there was 
no treasure, there could undoubtedly be no treason 1" 

Mr Sheridan next read the letter of the Begum*' to Mr Hastings, com- 
plaining of the suspicions which had been so unjustly raised of her conduct ; 
and referring to Captain Gordon, who could testify her innocence. He also 
read the letter of Captain Gordon to the Begum,f thanking her for her inter- 
ference, and acknowledging that he owed his life to her bounty. " It had 
been asked, with an air of triumph, why Captain Gordon was not called ta 
that bar? He had answered then, as now, that he would not call on a man 

* The letter was as follows : — " The disturbances of Colonel Hannay and Mr Gor- 
don were made a pretence for seizing my jaghire. The state of the matter is this : — 
When Colonel Hannay was, by Mr Hastings, ordered to march to Benares during the 
troubles of Cheit Sing^ the Colonel, who had plundered the whole country, was in- 
capable af proceeding, from the union of thousands of Zemindars, who had seized this 
favourable opportunity ; they harassed Mr Gordon near Junivard, and the Zemindars 
of that place and Acberpore opposed his march from thence, till he arrived near 
Saunda. As the Saunda Nutta, from its overflowing, was difficult to cross without a 
boat, Mr Gordon sent to the fowzdar to supply him ; he replied^ the boats were all in 
the river, but would assist him, according to order, as soon as possible. Mr Gordon's 
situation would not admit of his waiting ; he forded the Nutta upon his elephant, and 
was hospitably received and entertained by the fowzdar for six days. In the mean- 
time, a letter was received by me from Colonel Hannay, desiring me to escort Mr Gor- 
don to Fyzabad. As my friendship for the English was alv/ays sincere, I readily com- 
plied, and sent some companies of Nejeebs to escort Mr Gordon and all his effects to 
Fyzabad : where, having provided far his entertainment, I effected his junction with 
Colonel Hannay. The letters of thanks received from both these gentlemen, upon thi& 
occasion, are still in my possession ;. copies of which I gave in charge to Major Gilpin^ 
to be delivered to Mr Middleton, that he might forward them to the Governor- general. 
To be brief, those vvho have loaded me with accusations, are now clearly convicted of 
falsehood. But is it not extraordinary, that, notwithstanding the justness of my cause, 
nobody relieves my misfortunes ? My prayers have been constantly offered to heaven 
for your arrival ; report has announced it, for which reason I have taken up the pen^ 
and request you will not place implicit confidence in my accusers ; but, weighing in 
the scale of justice their falsehoods and my representations, you will exert your in- 
fluence in putting a period to the misfortunes with which I am overwhelmed." 

t The letter was as follows : — " Begum Saib, of exalted dignity, generosity, &c., 
whom God preserve. 

" Your gracious letter, in answer to the petition of your servant from Goondah, 
exalted me. Prom the contents, I became unspeakably impressed with the honour it 
conferred. May the Almighty protect that royal purity, and bestow happiness, increase 
O^ wealth, and prosperity. 

*' The vjelfare of your servant is entirely owing to your favour and benevolence^ ^c., S^e/' 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 143 

who, in his affidavit, had suppressed all mention of this important transac- 
tion. He trusted that, if ever he saw him at that bar, he should witness a 
contrite zeal to do away the effects of that silence, and behold a penitential 
tear for the part he had then taken. He hoped, however, for the honour of 
human nature, that Captain Gordon was then under a delusion, and that he 
was led on by Mr Middleton, who was v/cU informed of the business, to act 
a part of which he did not know the consequences. Every feeling of humanity 
recoiled from the transaction taken in any other point of view. It was diffi- 
cult to imagine that any man could say to a benefactor, ' The breath that T 
now draw, next to Heaven, I owe to you ; my existence is an emanation 
from your bounty ; I am indebted to you beyond all possibility of return, 
and, therefore, my gratitude shall be your destruction.' 

*' The original lettei-s on this occasion, from Colonel Hannay and Captain 
Gordon to the Begum, had been transmitted by her, through Major Gilpin, 
to Mr Middleton, for the purpose of being shown to Mr Hastings ; but the 
leaves were torn from Mr Middleton's letter-book in the place where they 
should have appeared. When examined on this subject, he said, that he 
had deposited Persian copies of those letters in the office at Lucknow, but 
that he did not bring translations with him to Calcutta, because he left 
Lucknow the very day after he had received the originals. In this evi- 
dence," Mr Sheridan said in express terms, " there appeared flat perjury ! — 
enormity, if it was so, beyond all expectation, made manifest by that power, 
to whose nod all creatures must bend — to whom nothing, in the whole 
system of thought or action, is impossible — who can invigorate the arm of 
infancy with a giant's nerve — who can bring light out of darkness, and good 
out of evil — can rive the confines of hidden mischief, and drag forth each 
minister of guilt from amidst his deeds of darkness and disaster, reluctant, 
alas ! and unrepenting, to exemplify, at least, if not atone, and to qualify 
any casual sufferings of innocence by the final doom of its oppressor — to 
prove there are the never-failing corrections of God, to make straight the 
obliquity of man. It could be proved, by comparing dates, that Middleton 
had received those letters at least a month before he left Lucknow. He de- 
parted from that city on the I7th of October ; but must have received those 
letters before the 20th of the preceding month. He was, therefore, well 
aware of the purity of those in whose oppression he was engaged ; he knew 
that their attachment was fully proved at the very time they were charged 
with disaffection ; but, as their punishment was predetermined, he, in con- 
cert with his principal, found it necessary to suppress the testimonials of 
their innocence. The injured sufferers, with tears more powerful than argu- 
ment, and with sighs more impressive than eloquence, supplicated their 
lordships' justice, and called for that retribution which should alight on the 
detested but unrepenting author of their wrongs. 

" The benevolent interference of the Begum in favour of Captain Gordon 
had been assigned by Mr Hastings, in his defence, to her intelligence of the 
successes of the English at that period. That this allegation was faunded 

L 2 



144 THE ]SI0DEI13«^ OUATOE- 

in manifest falsehood, could xevy easily be proved. The only success whicli 
the British forces at that time met with was that of Colonel Blair, on the 
3rd of September, but where he himself acknowledged that another victory 
gained at such a loss would be equal to a defeat. The reports spread 
around the country at the time were of the most unfavourable cast — that 
Mr Hastings had been slain at Benares, and that the English were every- 
where routed. These reports, it was to be remarked, were of infinitely more 
consequence to the present argument than the facts which really occurred ; 
but if any doubt remained on the mind of any man, it was only necessary to 
recur to a never-failing evidence, in that of Mr Hastings against himself. In 
a letter to the Council, which was on record, Mr Hastings acknowledged 
that, from the 22nd of August to the 22nd of September, which included, of 
course, the time of Captain Gordon's liberation, he had been confined in a 
situation of the utmost hazard — that his safety, during that time, was ex- 
tremely precarious — ^and that the afi'airs of the English were generally 
thought to be unfavourable in the extreme ! In his defence, however, these 
admissions were totally forgotten. There was also an observable inconsistency 
in what was there alleged — that Colonel Hannay had written to the Begum 
in the style of supplication, because, in the desperate situation of afiairs, he 
knew of no other which he could adopt ; and yet, in the same sentence, it 
was averred that the Begum had procured the release of Captain Gordon, 
from her knowledge of the prosperous advances of our army ! It appeared, 
therefore, beyond the possibility of a doubt, that those princesses had de- 
monstrated the firmness of their attachment to the English — ^not in the 
moment of success, not from the impulse of fear, nor fi'om the pros2>ect of 
future protection ; but at a time when the hoard of collected vengeance was 
about to burst over our heads — when the measure of European guilt in 
India appeared to be completely filled by the oppressions what had just then 
been exercised on the unfortunate Cheit Sing — and when offended Heaven 
seemed to interfere to change the meek disposition of the natives, to awaken 
their resentment, and to inspirit their revenge. 

*' The second of the remaining parts of the charge against the Begums was, 
their having inflamed the Jaghirdars. It was evident, however, even from 
the letters of Mr Middleton himself, that no such aid was wanted to awaken 
resentments which must unavoidably have arisen from the nature of the 
business. There were many powerful interests concerned — the jaghires 
which were depending Avere of a vast amount ; and as their owners, by the 
resumption, would be reduced at once to poverty and distress, their own 
feelings were sufficient to produce every effect which had been described. It 
was idle, therefore, to ascribe to the Begums, without a shadow of proof, the 
inspiring of sentiments which must have existed without their interference. 
I shall not waste the time of the court," said Mr Sheridan, " on such a 
subject, but appeal to your lordsliips, individually, to determine whether, on 
a proposal being made to confiscate your several estates — and the magnitude 
of the objects are not very unequal — the interference of any two ladies in 



RiCHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 145 

tills kingdom v^ould be at all necessary to awaken your resentments and to 
rouse you to opposition. 

" The discontents which prevailed in the province of Oude had been also, 
and with similar justice, attributed to these princesses, and formed the third 
and last article of charge against them. But the conduct of the officers 
residing in that province, the repeated complaints from the natives, and the 
acknowledged rapacity of Colonel Hannay, left no difficulty in tracing those 
discontents to the source whence they had originated. The Nabob himself 
was so well convinced of the tyranny of Colonel Hannay that, on a propo- 
sition coming from Mr Hastings to send him back into the province, the 
Nabob swore by Mahomet, ' that, if the colonel was sent back, he would 
quit the pro^dnce, and come to reside with Mr Hastings.' The Governor- 
• general some time after sent an apology for the suggestion ; but it was then 
too late — Colonel Hannay was dead, and the province was desolate. 

'* Should a stranger survey the land formerly Sujah Dowlah's, and seek 
the cause of the calamity — should he ask what monstrous madness had 
ravaged thus, with wide-spread war ? — what desolating foreign foe — what 
disputed succession — what religious zeal — what fabled monster has stalked 
abroad, and, with malice and mortal enmity to man, has withered with the 
gripe of death every growth of nature and humanity, all the means of delight, 
and each original, simple principle of bare existence ? The answer will be — 
if any answer dare be given — ' No, alas ! not one of these things — no deso- 
lating foreign foe — no disputed succession — no religious super-serviceable 
zeal ! This damp of death is the mere effiision of British amity : we sink 
under the pressure of their support — we writhe under the gripe of their 
pestiferous alliance ! ' 

" Thus they suffered, in barren anguish and ineffectual bewailings. And 
' O audacious fallacy ! ' says the defence of Mr Hastings, ' what cause was 
there for any incidental ills but their oAvn resistance ? ' 

*' The cause was nature in the first-born principles of man. It grew with 
his growth-; it strengthened with his strength ! It taught him to under- 
stand — it enabled him to feel ; for, where there is human shape, can there 
be a penury of human feeling ? Where there is injury, will there not be 
resentment ? Is not despair to be followed by courage ? The God of 
battles pervades and penetrates the inmost spirit of man, and, rousing him 
to shake ofif the burthen that is grievous, and the yoke that is galling, will 
reveal the law written in his heart, and the duties and privileges of his 
nature — the grand universal compact of man vnth man ! That power is 
delegated in trust, for the good of all who obey it — that the rights of men 
must arm against man's oppression ; for that indifference were treason to 
human state, and patience nothing less than blasphemy against the laws 
which govern the world. 

" That this representation v/as not exaggerated would appear from the 
description of Major Naylor, who had succeeded Colonel Hannay, and who 
had previously saved him from the vengeance which the assembled ryots, or 



146 THE MODERN OEATOE. 

husbandmen, were about to take on their oppressors. The progress of 
extortion, it appeared, had not been uniform in that province ; it had abso- 
lutely increased as its resources failed ; and, as the labour of exaction became 
more difficult, the price of that increased labour had been charged as an 
additional tax on the wretched inhabitants ! At length, even in their meek 
bosoms, where injury never before begot resentment, nor despair aroused to 
courage, increased oppression had its due effect. They assembled round 
their oppressor, and had nearly made him their sacrifice. So deeply were 
they impressed with the sense of their wrongs, that they would not even 
accept of life from those who had rescued Colonel Hannay. They presented 
themselves to the swords of the soldiery ; and, as they lay bleeding on the 
banks of their sacred stream,* they comforted themselves with the ghastly 
hope that their blood would not descend into the soil, but that it would , 
ascend to the view of the God of nature, and there claim a retribution for 
their wrongs ! Of a people thus injured, and thus feeling, it was an 
audacious fallacy to attribute the conduct to any external impulse. That 
God, who gave them the form of man, implanted also the wish to vindicate 
the rights of man. Though simple in their manners, they were not so unin- 
formed as not to know that power is, in every state, a trust reposed for the 
general good ; and that, the trust being onee abused, it should, of course, be 
instantly resented. 

" The irmoeence of the Begums," Mr Sheridan continued, " being thus 
most indubitably and ineontrovertibly proved, it could not be allowed that 
he argued fairly if he did not immediately infer, from that proof, the guilt of 
Mr Hastings. He would go so far as to admit that Mr Hastings might have 
"been deluded by his accomplices, and have been persuaded into a conviction 
of a criminality which did not exist. If that were proved, he would readily 
agree to acquit the prisoner of the present charge. But if, on the contrary, 
there appeared in his subsequent conduct such a concealment as denoted the 
fullest consciousness of guilt — if all his narrations of the business were 
marked with inconsistency and contradiction — that mind must be inaccessible 
to con^dction which could entertain a doubt of his criminality. From the 
month of September, in which the seizure of the treasures took place, until 
the January following, had Mr Hastings whoUy concealed the transaction 
from the Council at Calcutta ! If anything could be more singular than this 
concealment, it was the reasons by which it was afterwards attempted to be 
justified. Mr Hastings first pleaded a want of leisure. He was writing ta 
the Council at a time when he complained of an absolute inaction ; he found 
time to narrate some pretty eastern tales respecting the attachment of the 
sepoys to their cannon, and their dressing them with flowers on particular 
occasions ; but of a rebellion which convulsed an empire — of the seizure of 
the treasures to such an amount — ^he could not find leisure to say one syl- 
lable, until he had secured an excuse for his conduct in the possession of the 

* The Ganges, which has always been regarded, by the natives of India, with great 
veneration. 



SICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 147 

money. The second excuse was, that all communication was cut off mth 
Fyzabad ; and this was alleged at a time when letters were passing daily 
between him and Mr Middleton, and when Sir EHjah Impey had pronounced 
the road to be as free from interruption as that between London and Brent- 
ford. The third excuse was, that Mr Middleton had taken with him, on his 
departure from Chunar, all the original papers which it was necessary for 
Mr Hastings to consult. That the original papers had not been removed 
was evident, however, from Mr Hastings sending a copy of the treaty of 
Chunar to Mr Middleton, on the fourth day after the resident's departure ; 
though it appeared that it was re-inclosed at a proper time to Mr Hastings, 
to be shown to the Council. A copy of the same had been shown to the 
oriental Grotius, Sir Elijah Impey, which he confessed his having read at the 
time when he declared his ignorance of the guarantee"^' to the Princesses of 
Oude ! Looking to the absurdity of reasons such as these, assigned in 
defence of a silence so criminal, Mr Sheridan declared that he would lay 
aside every other argument — that he would not dwell on any other topic of 
guilt, if the coimsel for Mr Hastings would but join issue on this point, and 
prove, to the satisfaction of the court, that any of these excuses were in the 
smallest degree sufficient for the purpose for which they were assigned. 

" Amidst the other artifices of concealment, was a letter from Colonel Han- 
nay, dated October 17, 1781, which Mr Sheridan indisputably proved could 
not have been wTitten at the time, but was fabricated at a subsequent period, 
as it contained a mention of facts which could by no possibility have been 
kno^vn to Colonel Hannay at the time when it was pretended to have been 
written. Whatever else could be done for the purpose of concealment, was 
done in that mixture of canting and mystery, of rhapsody and enigma — Mr 
Hastings's narrative of his journey to Benares. He there set out with a 
solemn appeal to heaven for the truth of his averments, and a declaration of 
the same purport to Mr Wheeler. The faith, however, thus pledged, was 
broken both to God and man ; for it was already in evidence, that no single 
transaction had occurred as it was there stated ! 

" The question would naturally occur to every person who had attended to 
these proceedings, ' Why Mr Hastings had used all these efforts to veil the 
whole of this business in mystery ? ' It was not strictly incumbent on him 
to answer the question, yet he would reply, that Mr Hastings had obviously 
a bloody reason for the concealment. He had looked to the natural efiect of 
strong injuries on the human mind ; as, in the case of Cheit Sing, he thought 
that oppression must beget resistance ; and the efibrts w^hich might be made 
by the Begums in theii- own defence, though really the effect, he was deter- 
mined to represent as the cause, of his proceedings. Even when disappointed 
in those aims by the natural meekness and submission of those with whom he 

* By a treaty signed by Mr Middleton, as the English resident agent at Oude, with 
the superior Begum, in October, 1778, and afterwards approved by Mr Hastings, the 
jaghu-e, which was allotted for the support of the women in the Khord Mahal, had 
been secured to the Begums. 



148 THE MODERN OEATOE. 

was to act, he could not abandon the idea ; and, accordingly, in his letter to 
th6 Directors, of January 5, 1782, had represented the subsequent disturb- 
ances in Oude as the positive cause of the violent measures which he 
had adopted, two months before those disturbances had existence ! Ho 
there congratulates his masters on the seizure of those treasures which, by 
the law of Mahomet, he assures them were the property of Asoph ul Dowlah. 
Thus the perturbed spirit of the Mahometan law, according to Mr Hastings's 
idea, still hovered round those treasures, and envied them to every possessor, 
until it at length saw them safely lodged within the sanctuary of the British 
treasury ! In the same spirit of piety, Mr Hastings had assured the House 
of Commons, that the inhabitants of Asia believed that some unseen power 
interfered, and conducted all his pursuits to their destined end. That Pro- 
vidence, however, which thus conducted the eiForts of Mr Hastings, was not 
the Providence to which others profess themselves indebted— which interferes 
in the cause of virtue, and insensibly leads guilt towards its punishment : it 
was not, in fine, that Providence, 

*' ' Whose works aie goodness, and whose ways are right.' 

The unseen power which protected Mr Hastings, operated by leading 
others into criminality, which, as far as it respected the Governor-general, 
was highly fortunate in its effects. If the Rajah Nuncomar''^ brings a charge 
against Mr Hastings, Providence so orders it, that the Rajah has committed 
a forgery some years before ; which, with some friendly assistance, proves a 
sufficient reason to remove out of the way so troublesome an acquaintance. 
If the Company's affairs are deranged through the want of money. Providence 
ordains it so that the Begums, though unconsciously, fall into a rebellion, 
and gives Mr Hastings an opportunity of seizing on their treasures ! Thus, 
the successes of Mr Hastings depended, not on any positive merit in himself; 
it was to the inspired felonies, the heaven-born crimes, and the providential 
treasons of others, that he was indebted for each success, and for the whole 
tenor of his prosperity ! 

" It must undoubtedly bear a strange appearance, that a man of reputed 
ability should, even when acting wrongly, have had recourse to so many 
bungling artifices, and spread so thin a veil over his deceptions. But those 
who testified any surprise at this circumstance, must have attended but little 
to the demeanour of Mr Hastings. Through the whole course of his conduct 
he seemed to have adhered to one general rule, to keep as clear as possible 
of the fact which he was to relate ! Observing this maxim, his only study 
was to lay a foundation as fanciful and as ornamental as possible ; then, by a 
superadded mass of fallacies, the superstructure was soon complete, though 
by some radical defect it never failed to tumble on his own head. Rising 
from those ruins, however, he was soon found rearing a similar edifice, but 
with a like effect. Delighting in difficulties, he disdained the plain and 

* See note, page 135. 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. , 149 

secure foundation of truth ; he loved, on the contrary, to build on a preci- 
pice, and encamp on a mine. Inured to falls, he felt not the danger ; and 
frequent defeats had given him a hardihood, without impressing a sense of 
the disgrace. 

" It had been a maxim once as much admitted in the practice of common 
life, as in the school of philosophy, that where Heaven was inclined to destroy 
the vice, it began by debasing the intellect.* This idea was carried still 
further by the right honourable gentleman who opened the prosecution ; 
who declared, that prudence and vice were things absolutely incompatible ; 
that the vicious man, being deprived of his best energies, and curtailed in 
his proportion of understanding, was left with such a short-sighted degree of 
penetration as could not come under the denomination of prudence. This 
sentiment did honour to the name of his right honourable friend, to whom," 
said Mr Sheridan, " I look up with homage ; whose genius is commensurate 
with his philanthropy — whose memory will stretch itself beyond the fleeting 
objects of any little partial shufiling, through the whole wide range of human 
knowledge, and honourable aspiration after human good ; as large as the 
system which forms life — as large as those objects that adorn. It is a 
noble and a lovely sentiment, worthy the mind of him who uttered it ; wor- 
thy that proud disdain, that generous scorn of the means and instruments of 
vice, which virtue and genius must ever feel. But I should doubt whether 
we can read the history of a Philip of Macedon, a Caesar, or a Cromwell, 
without confessing that there have been evil purposes baneful to the peace 
and rights of men, conducted, if I may not say with prudence or with 
wisdom, yet with awful craft, and with most successful and commanding 
subtlety. If, however, I might make a distinction, I should say, that it is 
the proud attempt to mix a variety of lordly crimes, that unsettles the pru- 
dence of the mind, and breeds this distraction of the brain ; one master- 
passion, domineering in the breast, may "win the faculties of the understanding 
to advance its purpose, and direct to that object everything which thought or 
human knowledge can efiect; but, to succeed, it must maintain a solitary 
despotism in the mind ; each rival profligacy must stand aloof, or wait in 
abject vassalage on its throne ; for the power that has not forbidden the 
entrance of evil passions into man's mind, has at least forbidden their union : 
if they meet, they defeat their object, and their conquest, or their attempt at 
it, is tumult. Turn to the virtues — how different the decree ! Formed to 
connect, to blend, to associate, and to co-operate ; bearing the same course, 
with kindred energies and harmonious sympathy ; each perfect in its own 
lovely sphere, each moving in its wider or more contracted orbit, with dif- 
ferent but concentring poAvers, guided by the same influence of reason, and 
endeavouring at the same blessed end — the happiness of the individual, the 
harmony of the species, and the glory of the Creator ! In the vices, on the 
other hand, it is the discord that ensures the defeat ; each clamours to be 

* Quom Dc'us vult pcrderc, prius dementat. 



150 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

heard in its own barbarous language ; each claims the exclusive cunning, of 
the brain ; each thwarts and reproaches the other ; . and even while their 
fell rage assails with common hate the peace and virtue of the world, 
the civil war among their own tumultuous legions defeats the purpose of 
the foul conspiracy. These are the furies of the mind, my lords, that 
unsettle the understanding; these are the furies that destroy the virtue 
of prudence ; while the distracted brain, and shivered intellect, proclaim 
the tumult that is within ; and bear their testimonies, from the mouth of 
God himself, to the foul condition of the heart." 

Reverting again to the subject of the claims made on the Princesses 
of Oude, Mr Sheridan said : " Whether those were first made by the Nabob, 
or suggested to him by his sovereign, Mr Hastings — though the counsel 
had laboured much to prove the former — appeared to him to carry very 
little difference. If the seizure was made as a confiscation and punish- 
ment for supposed guilt, then, if ever there was a crime which ought to pass 
' unwhipped of justice,' it was that where a son must necessarily be made 
the instrument of an infliction, by which he broke his covenant of existence, 
and violated the condition by which he held his rank in society. If, on the 
contrary, it was meant as a resumption, in consequence of a supposed right 
in the Nabob, then Mr Hastings should have recollected the guarantee of the 
Company granted to the Begums ; unless it was meant to be said, that Mr 
Hastings acted in that, as in other instances ; and assured them of his pro- 
tection, until the very moment when it was wanted. It was idle, however, 
to dwell on the conduct or free agency of a man who, it was notorious, had 
no will of his own. What Mr Middleton asserted at that bar would scarcely 
be put in competition with a series of established facts ; by which it ap- 
peared, that the Nabob had submitted to every indignity, and yielded to 
every assumption. It was an acknowledged fact, that he had even been 
brought to join in that paltry artifice which had been termed the subornation 
of letters. This practice was carried to such a length, that he in the end 
complained, in a manner rather ludicrous, that he was reaUy tired of sending 
different characters of Mr Bristow, in pursuance of the directions sent to the 
resident. He had pronounced black white and white black so often, that he 
really knew not what to say ; and, therefore, begged that, once for all, the 
friends of Mr Hastings might be considered as his, and that their enemies 
might also be the same. After this, it was superfluous to argue that the 
Nabob could direct his views to so important an object as the seizing of the 
treasures, unless he had been impelled by Mr Middleton, and authorised 
by Mr Hastings ! " 

[The Court then adjourned till June 10th, on which day Mr Sheridan 
pointed out the inconsistency of the affidavits taken before Sir Elijah Impey, 
and produced as evidence of the treason of the Begums, and the perjury 
committed by Sir Elijah himself; and with great talent summed up the evi- 
dence, proving that the Nabob was merely an involuntary agent in the seizure 
of the treasures of the Begums, and the resumption of the Jaghires. 



mCHAnt) BElNSLtlY SHERIDAN. 151 

In consequence of Mr Sheridan being taken suddenly ill, the Court ad- 
journed till the 13th, when Mr Sheridan concluded his address.] 

" Mr Sheridan began by apologising for the interruption which his indisposi- 
tion had caused on the former day. He assured their lordships, in the 
strongest terms, that nothing but the importance of the cause, to which he 
felt himself totally unable to do justice, could have made him trespass on 
that indulgence which, on other occasions, he had so amply experienced. 

"He had, then, concluded with submitting to their lordships the whole of 
the correspondence, as far as it could be obtained, between the principals and 
agents, in the nefarious plot carried on against the Nabob vizier and the 
Begums of Oude. These letters were worthy the most abstracted attention 
of their lordships, as containing not only a narrative of that foul and unmanly 
conspiracy, but also a detail of the motives and ends for which it was formed, 
and an exposition of the trick, the quibble, the prevarication, and the untruth 
with which it was then acted, and now attempted to be defended ! The 
question would undoubtedly suggest itself, why the correspondence ever was 
produced by the parties against whom it was now adduced in evidence, and 
who had so much reason to distrust the propriety of their o^vn conduct ? 
To this the answer was, that it was owing to a mutual and providential re- 
sentment which had broken out between the parties, which was generally the 
case between persons concerned in such transactions. Mr Middleton was 
incensed, and felt as a galling triumph the confidence reposed by the 
Governor-general in other agents. Mr Hastings was offended by the tardy 
wariness which marked the conduct of Middleton ; by the various remon- 
strances by the agent — though, as knowing the man to whom they Avere 
addressed, they were all grounded on motives of policy — not of humanity — 
and of expediency, which left justice entirely out of the question ; but the 
great ostensible ground of quarrel was, that Middleton had dared to spend 
two days in negotiation — though that delay had prevented the general massacre 
of upwards of two thousand persons ! The real cause, however, of this 
difference, was a firm belief on the part of Mr Hastings, that Mr Middleton 
had inverted their different situations, and kept the lion's share of plunder to 
himself. There were, undoubtedly, some circumstances to justify this sus- 
picion. At the time when Mr Hastings had first complained, the Nabob's 
treasury was empty, and his troops so mutinous for their pay as even to 
threaten his life; yet in this moment of gratitude and opulence, Middleton 
intimated the Nabob's desire to make Mr Hastings a present of £100,000. 
That sacrifice, however, not being deemed sufiicient, Mr Middleton was re- 
called, and Major Palmer was sent in his room with instructions to tell the 
Nabob that such a donation was not to be attempted : the prince, however, 
with an unfortunate want of recollection, said, that ' no such ofier had ever 
been in his mind.' Thus, it had always been considered as the heightening 
of a favour bestowed, that the receiver should not know from what quarter it 
came ; but it was reserved for Mr Middleton to improve on this by such a 
delicate refinement, that the person giving should be totally ignorant of the 
favour he conferred ! 



132 THE MODERN ORATOK. 

"But, notwithstanding these little differences and suspicions, Mr Hastings 
and Mr Middleton, on the return of the latter to Calcutta in October, 1782, 
continued to live in the same style of friendly collusion and fraudulent 
familiarity as ever. But when Mr Bristow,* not answering the purposes of 
Mr Hastings, was accused on the suborned letters procured from the Nabob, 
one of which pronounced him the blackest character in existence, while 
another, of the same date, spoke of him as a very honest fellow, Mr Hastings 
thought it might appear particular ; and therefore, after their intimacy of six 
months, accuses Mr Middleton also before the board at Calcutta. It was 
then that, in the rash eagerness which distinguished his pursuit of every 
object, Mr Hastings had incautiously, but happily for the present purposes 
of justice, brought forth these secret letters. It mattered not what were the 
views which induced Mr Hastings to bring that charge ; whether he had 
drawn up the accusation, or obliged Mr Middleton with his aid in framing a 
defence ; the whole ended in a repartee, and a poetical quotation from 
the Governor-general. The only circumstance material to the purposes 
of humanity, was the production of instruments by which those who had 
violated every principle of justice and benevolence were to see their guilt 
explained, and, it was to be hoped, to experience that punishment which 
they deserved. 

" To those private letters it was that their lordships were to look for 
whatever elucidation of the subject could be drawn from the parties con- 
cerned. Written in the moments of confidence, they declared the real mo- 
tive and object of each measure ; the public letters were only to be re- 
garded as proofs of guilt, whenever they established a contradiction. The 
counsel for the prisoner had chosen, as the safest ground, to rely on the 
public letters, written for the concealment of fraud and purpose of decep- 
tion. They had, for instance, particularly dwelt on a public letter from 
Mr Middleton, dated in December, 1781, which intimated some particulars 
of supposed contumacy in the Begums, with a view to countenance the 
transactions which shortly after took place, and particularly the resumption 
of the jaghires. But this letter, both Sir Elijah Impey and Mr Middleton 
had admitted, in their examination at that bar, to be totally false ; though 
if it were in every point true, the apprehension of resistance to a mea- 
sure, could not, by any means, be made a ground for the enforcement of 
that measure in the first instance. The counsel seemed displeased with Mr 
Middleton for the answer, and therefore repeated the question. The witness, 
however, did not really fall into their humour ; for he declared, that he 
did not recollect a particle of the letter ; and, though memory was un- 
doubtedly not the forte of Mr Middleton, he was not, perhaps, entirely 
faulty on this occasion, as the letter was, certainly, of a later fabrication, 
and, perhaps, not from his hand. This letter, however, was also in direct 
conti'adiction to every one of the defences set up by Mr Hastings. Another 

* Mr Middleton' s successor. 



RICHARD liRINSLEY 9HERIDAX. 153 

public letter, which had been equally dwelt on, spoke of the ' determination 
of the Nabob ' to resume the jaghires. It had appeared in e\ddence, that the 
Nabob could, by no means, be compelled to yield to their measures ; that it 
was not until Mr Middleton had actually issued his own perwannas for the 
collection of the rents, that the Nabob, rather than be brought to the utmost 
state of degradation, agreed to let the measure be brought forward as his 
own act ! The resistance of the Begums to that measure, was noticed in the 
same letter, as an instance of female levity, as if their defence of the property 
assigned for their subsistence, was to be made a reproach ; or, that they de- 
served a reproof for female lightness, by entertaining a feminine objection to 
their being starved ! 

" This resistance to the measure, which was expected, and the consoling 
slaughter on which Mr Hastings relied, were looked to in all those letters 
as a justification of the measure itself. There was not the smallest mention 
of the anterior rebellion, which, by prudent afterthought, had been so greatly 
magnified. There was not a syllable of those dangerous machinations which 
were to have dethroned the Nabob ; of those sanguinary artifices by which 
the English were to have bqen extirpated. Not a particle concerning those 
practices was mentioned in any of Middleton' s letters to Hastings, or in the 
still more confidential communication which he maintained with Sir Elijah 
Impey ; though, after the latter, his letters were continually posting, even 
when the chief justice was travelling round the country in search of affida- 
vits. When, on the 28th of November, he was busied at Lucknow on that 
honourable business, and when, three days after he was found at Chunar, at 
the distance of two hundred miles, prompting his instruments, and, like 
Hamlet's ghost, exclaiming, ' Swear ! ' — his progress on that occasion was so 
whimsicall)'" sudden, when contrasted with the gravity of his employer, that 
an observer would be tempted to quote again from the same scene,* ' Ha ! 
old Truepenny, canst thou mole so fast i' the ground ? ' Here, however, the 
comparison ceased ; for when Sir Elijah made his visit to Lucknow, ' to 
whet the almost blunted purpose ' of the Nabob, his language was wholly 
difierent from that of the poet : it would have been much against his pur- 
pose to have said, 

" * Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive 
Against thy mother aught ! ' 

" On the subject of those affidavits, he would only make another single ob- 
servation. Sir Elijah Impey had denied all acquaintance with their contents, 
though he had been actually accompanied to Buxar by Major Davy, who 
there translated them from the Persian, for the use of Mr Hastings !f There 
was amongst them an affidavit, taken in English, from a native at Buxar, 

* Act i., sc. 5. The line in Shakspere is, " Well said, old Mole ! canst work i' the 
earth so fast ? " 

t Major Davy had also, by an aifidavit sworn before Sir Elijah Impey himself tes- 
tified to the correctness of his translation. 



154 THE MODERN ORATOK. 

but which was first explained to the deponent by Major Davy, in the pre- 
sence of Sir Elijah Impey. How far, therefore, the assertion of the chief 
justice was plausible, and how far this fact was consistent with that asser- 
tion, he should leave it to their lordships to determine. 

" It w^as in some degree observable, that not one of the private letters of 
Mr Hastings had been produced at any time. Even Middleton, when all 
confidence was broken between them by the production of his private corre- 
spondence at Calcutta, either feeling for his own safety, or sunk under the 
fascinating influence of his master, did not dare attempt a retaliation ! The 
letters of Middleton, however, were sufiicient to prove the situation of the 
Nabob, when pressed to the measure of resuming the jaghires, in which he 
had been represented as acting wholly from himself. He was there described 
as lost in sullen melancholy, with feelings agitated beyond expression, and 
with every mark of agonised sensibility. To such a degree was this apparent, 
that even Middleton was moved to interfere for a temporary respite, in which 
he might be more reconciled to the measure. ' I am fully of opinion,' said 
he, ' that the despair of the Nabob must impel him to violence ; I know also 
that the violence must be fatal to himself; but yet I think, that with his 
present feelings he will disregard all consequences.' Mr Johnson, also, the 
assistant-resident, wrote at the same time to Mr Hastings, to aver to him 
that the measure was dangerous, that it would require a total reform of the 
collection, which could not be made mthout a campaign ! This was British 
justice ! this was British humanity ! Mr Hastings ensures to the allies of 
the Company, in the strongest terms, their prosperity and his protection ; 
the former he secures by sending an army to plunder them of their wealth, 
and to desolate their soil ! His protection is fraught with a similar security, 
like that of a vulture to a lamb ; grappling in its vitals ! thirsting for its 
blood ! scaring ofi" each petty kite that hovers round ; and then, with an in- 
sulting perversion of terms, calling sacrifice protection ! — an object for which 
history seeks for any similarity in vain. The deep-searching annals of 
Tacitus — the luminous philosophy of Gibbon — all the records of man's 
transgressing, from original sin to the present period, d\vindle into compa- 
rative insignificance of enormity, both in aggravation of vile principles, and 
extent of their consequential ruin ! The victims of this oppression were 
confessedly destitute of all power to resist their oppressors ; but that de- 
bility, which from other bosoms would have claimed some compassion, with 
respect to the mode of sufiering, here excited but the ingenuity of torture ! 
Even when every feeling of the Nabob was subdued, nature made a lingering, 
feeble stand mthin his bosom ; but, even then, that cold unfeeling spirit of 
magnanimity, with whom his doom was fixed, returned mth double acrimony 
to its purpose, and compelled him to inflict on a parent that destruction 
of which he was himself reserved but to be the last victim ! 

" Yet, when cruelty seemed to have reached its bounds, and guilt to have 
ascended to its climax, there was something in the character of Mr Hastings 
which seemed to transcend the latter, and overleap the former ; and of this 



aiCHASB SEINSLEY SHERIDAN. 155 

kind was the letter to the Nabob which was despatched on this occasion. 
To rebuke Mr Middleton for his moderation, as was instantly done, was 
easily performed through the medium of a public and a private letter. But 
to write to the Nabob in such a mamier that the command might be con- 
veyed, and yet the letter afterwards shown to the world, was a task of more 
difficulty, but which it appeared, by the event, was admirably suited to the 
genius of Mr Hastings. His letter was dated the 15th of February, 1782, 
though the jaghires had been then actually seized, and it was in proof that 
it had been sent at a much earlier period. He there assured the Nabob of 
his coincidence -with his wishes respecting the resumption of the jaghires : 
he declares, that if he found any difficulty in the measure, he, Mr Hastings, 
would go to his assistance in person, and lend his aid to punish those who 
opposed it ; ' for that nothing could be more ardent than his friendship, or 
more eager than his zeal for his welfare.' The most desperate intention was 
clothed in the mildest language. But the Nabob knew, by sad experience, 
the character with whom he had to deal, and therefore was not to be de- 
ceived ; he saw the dagger glistening in the hand which was treacherously 
extended, as if to his assistance, and from that moment the last faint ray of 
nature expired in his bosom. Mr Middleton, from that time, extended his 
iron sceptre mthout resistance ; the jaghires were seized — every measure 
was carried — and the Nabob, with his feelings lacerated and his dignity de- 
graded, was no longer considered as an object of regard. Though these 
were circumstances exasperating to the human heart, which felt the smallest 
remains of sensibility, yet it was necessary, in idea, to review the whole from 
the time that this treachery was first conceived, to that when, by a series of 
artifices the most execrable, it was brought to a completion. Mr Hastings 
would there be seen standing aloof indeed, but not inactive in the war ! He 
would be discovered in reviewing his agents, rebuking at one time the pale 
conscience of Mr Middleton, and, at another, relying on the stouter villany 
of Hyder Beg Khan.* With all the calmness of veteran delinquency, his 
eye ranged through the busy prospect, piercing through the darkness of 
subordinate guilt, and arranging with congenial adroitness the tools of his 
crimes, and the instruments of his cruelty. 

" The feelings of the several parties at the time would be most properly 
judged of by their respective correspondence. ^Vlien the Bow Begum, de- 
spairing of redress from the Nabob, addressed herself to Mr Middleton, and 
reminded him of the guarantee which he had signed, she was instantly pro- 
mised that the amount of her jaghire should be made good ; though Mr 
Middleton said he could not interfere with the sovereign decision of the 
Nabob respecting the lands. The deluded and unfortunate woman ' thanked 
God that Mr Middleton was at hand for her relief,' at the very instant when 
he was directing every effort to her destruction ; when he had actually \sTit- 
ten the orders which were to take the collection out of the hands of her 

* The minister of the Nabob, but under the control of Mi Hastings. 



156 THE MODERN OBATOR. 

agents ! Even when the Begum was undeceived, — when she found that 
British faith was no protection, — when she found that she should leave the 
country, and prayed to the God of nations not to grant his peace to those who 
remained behind, still there was no charge of rebellion, — no recrimination 
made to all her reproaches for the broken faith of the English ; nay, when 
stung to madness, she asked ' how long would be their reign ?' No men- 
tion of her disaffection was brought forward ; the stress was therefore idle, 
which the counsel for the prisoner strove to lay on these expressions of an 
injured and enraged woman. When at last irritated beyond bearing, she 
denounced infamy on the heads of her oppressors, who was there who would 
not say that she spoke in a prophetic spirit, and that what she had then pre- 
dicted, had not, even to its last letter, been accomplished ! But did Mr Mid- 
dleton, even to this violence, retort any particle of accusation ? No ; he sent 
0, jocose reply stating, that he had received such a letter under her seal, but 
that, from its contents, he could not suspect it to come from her ; and hoping, 
therefore, that she might detect \h.e forgery ! Thus did he add to foul inju- 
ries the vile aggravation of a brutal jest ; like the tiger that prowls over the 
scene where his ravages were committed, he showed the savageness of his 
nature by grinning over his prey, and fawning over the last agonies of his 
unfortunate victim. 

" Those letters were then enclosed to the Nabob, who, no more than the rest, 
made any attempt to justify himself by imputing criminality to the Begums. 
He merely sighed a hope that his conduct to his parents had drawn no shame 
upon his head ; and declared his intention to punish — not any disaffection in 
the Begum — ^but some officious servants who had dared to foment the mis- 
understanding between them and the Nabob. A letter was finally sent to 
Mr Hastings, about six days before the seizure of the treasure from the 
Begums, declaring their innocence, and referring the Governor-general to 
Captain Gordon, whose life they had protected, and whose safety should have 
been their justification. That inquiry was never made ; it was looked on as 
unnecessary ; because the conviction of their innocence was too deeply 
impressed. 

The counsel, in recommending attention to the public in preference to the 
private letters, had remarked, in particular, that one letter should not be 
taken as evidence, because it was manifestly and abstractedly private, as it 
contained in one part the anxieties of Mr Middleton for the illness of his 
son. This was a singular argument indeed; and the circumstance, in his 
mind, merited strict observation, though not in the view in which it was 
placed by the counsel. It went to show that some, at least, of those con- 
cerned in these transactions, felt the force of those ties which their efforts 
were directed to tear asunder ; that those who could ridicule the respective 
attachment of a mother and a son ; who would prohibit the reverence of the 
son to the mother who had given him life ; who could deny to maternal 
debility the protection which filial tenderness should afford — were yet sen- 
sible of the straining of those chords by which they v/ere connected. There 



"tlI(mAE,D BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 157 

was sometliing connected with tliis transaction so wretchedly horrible, and 
so vilely loathsome, as to excite the most contemptible disgust. When I see 
(said Mr Sheridan) in many of these letters the infirmities of age made a subject 
of mockery and ridicule ; when I see the feelings of a son treated by Mr Middle- 
ton as puerile and contemptible ; when I see an order given from Mr Hastings 
to harden that son's heart, and to choke the struggles of nature in his bosom ; 
when I see them pointing to the son's name and to his standard, while march- 
ing to oppress the mother, as to a banner that gives dignity, that gives a holy 
sanction and a reverence to their enterprise ; when I see and hear these 
things done ; when I hear them brought into three deliberate defences set up 
against the charges of the Commons, my lords, I own I grow puzzled and 
confounded, and almost begin to doubt whether, where such a defence can 
be oifered, it may not be tolerated. And yet, my lords, how can I support 
the claim of filial love by argument ? What can I say on such a subject? 
What can I do, but i-epeat the ready truths which, with the quick impulse of 
the mind, must spring to the lips of every man on such a theme } Filial 
piety ! — it is the primal bond of society ; it is that instinctive principle, 
which, panting for its proper good, soothes, unbidden, each sense and sensi- 
bility of man ! It now quivers on every lip ! — it now beams from every 
eye ! — it is an emanation of that gratitude which, softening under the sense 
of recollected good, is eager to own the vast countless debt it ne'er, alas 1 
can pay, for so many long years of unceasing solicitudes, honourable self- 
denials, life-preserving cares i — it is that part of our practice where duty 
drops its awe — ■ where reverence refines into love I It asks no aid of 
memory ! — it needs not the deductions of reason ! — pre-existing, paramount 
over all, whether law, or human rule, few arguments can increase and none 
can diminish it I — it is the sacrament of our nature — not only the duty, but 
the indulgence of man — it is his first great privilege — it is amongst his last 
most endearing delights ! — it causes the bosom to glow with reverberated 
love ! — it requites the visitations of nature, and returns the blessings that 
have been received! — it fires emotion into vital principle! — it renders habitua- 
ted instinct into a master-passion — sways all the sweetest -energies of man — 
hangs over each vicissitude of all that must pass away — aids the melancholy 
virtues in their last sad tasks of life, to cheer the languors of decrepitude and 
age — explores the thought — elucidates the aching eye — and breathes sweet 
consolation even in the awful moment of dissolution ! If these are the 
general sentiments of man, what must be their depravity — what must be 
their degeneracy — who can blot out and erase from the bosom the virtue that 
is most deeply rooted in the human heart, and twined within the chords of 
life itself? Aliens frona nature, apostates from humanity! And yet, if there 
be a crime more fell, more foul — if there be anything worse than a wilful 
persecutor of his mother, it is that of a deliberate instigator and abettor to 
the deed : this it is that shocks, disgusts, and appals the mind more than the 
other ; to view, not a wilful parricide, but a parricide by compulsion — a 
miserable . wretch, not actuated by the stubborn eA'ils of his own worthless 

M 



158 THE MODERK OUATOE. 

heart, not driven by the fury of his own distracted brain, but lending his 
sacrilegious hand, without any malice of his own, to answer the abandoned 
purposes of the human fiends that have subdued his will ! To condemn 
crimes like these, we need not talk of laws, or of human rules ; their foul- 
ness, their deformity, does not depend on local constitutions, on human 
institutes, or religious creeds ; they are crimes, and the persons who perpe- 
trate them are monsters, who violate the primitive condition on which the 
earth was given to man ; they are guilty by the general verdict of human 
kind. 

" The Jaghires being seized (Mr Sheridan proceeded to observe), the Be- 
gums were left without the smallest share of that pecuniary compensation 
promised by Mr Middleton ; and as, when tyranny and injustice take the 
field, they are always attended by their camp-followers, paltry, pilfering, and 
petty insult — so, in this instance, the goods taken from them were sold at a 
mock sale at inferior value. Even gold and jewels, to use the language of 
the Begums, instantly lost their value when it was known that they came 
from them! Their ministers were therefore imprisoned to extort the defi- 
ciency which this fraud had occasioned ; and those mean arts were employed 
to justify a continuance of cruelty. Yet, these again were little to the frauds 
of Mr Hastings. After extorting upwards of £600,000, he forbade Mr Mid- 
dleton to come to a conclusive settlement. He knew that the treasons of our 
allies in India had their origin solely in the wants of the Company. He could 
not, therefore, say that the Begums were entirely innocent, until he had con- 
sulted the general record of crimes — the cash account at Calcutta! And 
this prudence of Mr Hastings was fully justified by the event ; for there was 
actually found a balance of twenty-six lacks more against the Begums, which 
£260,000 worth of treason had never been dreamed of before. ' Talk not to 
us,' said the Governor -general, ' of their guilt or innocence, but as it suits 
the Company's credit ! We will not try them by the code of Justinian, nor 
the institutes of Timur ; we will not judge them either by the British laws, 
or their local customs ! No ! we will try them by the multiplication table, 
we will find them guilty by the rule of three, and we will condemn them 
according to the sapient and profound institutes of Cocker's Arithmetic' 

" Proceeding next to state the distresses of the Begums in the Zenana, 
and of the women in the Khord Mahal, Mr Sheridan stated that some obser- 
vation was due to the remark made by Mr Hastings in his defence, where he 
declared ' that whatever were the distresses there, and whoever was the 
agent, the measure was, in his opinion, reconcileable to justice, honour, and 
sound policy.' Major Scott, the incomparable agent of Mr Hastings, had 
declared this passage to have been written by Mr Hastings with his own 
hand. Mr Middleton, it appeared, had also avowed his share in those 
humane transactions, and blushingly retired. Mr Hastings then cheered his 
drooping spirits. ' Whatever part of the load,' said he, ' yours cannot bear, 
my unburdened character shall assume. I will crown your labours with my 
irresistible approbation. Thus, twin-warriors, we shall go forth ! you find 



BICHARD BEINSLEY SHERIDAN. 159 

memory, and I'll find character — and assault, repulse, and contumely shall 
all be set at defiance !' 

" If I could not prove (continued Mr Sheridan) that those acts of Mr Mid- 
dleton were in reality the acts of Mr Hastings, I should not trouble your 
lordships by combating these assertions ; but as that part of his criminality 
can be incontestibly ascertained, I shall unequivocally appeal to the assembled 
legislators of this realm, and call on them to say, whether those acts were 
justifiable on the score of policy, I shall appeal to all the august presidents 
in the courts of British jurisprudence, and to all the learned ornaments of the 
profession, to decide whether these actions were reconcileable to justice. I 
shall appeal to a reverend assemblage of prelates, feeling for the general 
interests of humanity, and for the honour of the religion to which they 
belong — let them determine in their own minds, whether those acts of Mr 
Hastings and Mr Middleton were such as a Christian ought to perform, or_^ a 
man to avow ! " 

He next detailed the circumstances of the imprisonment of Bahr Ally Khan 
and Jewar Ally Khan, the ministers of the Nabob, on the grounds above 
stated ; "was with them confined that arch-rebel, Sumpshire Khan,-^ by whom 
every act of hostility that had taken place against the English was stated to 
have been committed. No inquiry, however, was made concerning his treason, 
though many had been held respecting the treasure of the others. He was 
not so far noticed as to be deprived of his food ;f nor was he even 
complimented with fetters ; and yet, when he is on a future day to be in- 
formed of the mischiefs he was now stated to have done, he must think that, 
on being forgotten, he had a very providential escape ! The others were, on 
the contrary, taken from their milder prison at Fyzabad ; and, Avhen threats 
could efiect nothing, transferred by the meek humanity of Mr Middleton to 
the fortress of Chunargur. There, where the British flag was flying, they 
were doomed to deeper dungeons, heavier chains, and severer punishments ; 
there, where that flag was flying, which was wont to cheer the depressed, 
and to elate the subdued heart of misery, these venerable but unfortunate 
men were fated to encounter something lower than perdition, and something 
blacker than despair ! It appeared from the evidence of Mr Holt and others, 
that they were both cruelly flogged, though one was about seventy years of 
age, to extort a confession of the buried wealth of the Begums! Being 
charged with disafiection, they proclaimed their innocence. ' Tell us where 

* The Fowzdar, or officer in the service of the Begums at Saunda, on the occasion 
of Captain Gordon and his detachment arriving there. — See p. 1 40. 

t The following note from Mr Middleton to Lieutenant Francis Eutledge, dated 
January 20th, 1782, had been read in evidence: — 
** Sir, 

* * When this note is delivered to you by Hoolas Roy, I have to desire that you order 
the two prisoners to be put in irons^ keeping tJiem from all food, §c., agreeably to my 
instructions of yesterday, 

(Signed) ^'Nath. Middleton^" 

M 2 



I6"0 THE MODEEN OUATOK. 

are the remaining treasures (was the reply) — -it is only treachery to your 
immediate sovereigns — and you will then be fit associates for the repre- 
sentatives of British faith and British justice in India !' O Faith ! O 
Justice ! (exclaimed Mr Sheridan), I conjure you, by your sacred names, to 
depart for a moment from this place, though it be your peculiar residence; 
nor hear your names profaned by such a sacrilegious combination as that 
which I am now compelled to repeat ! — where all the fair forms of nature and 
art, truth and jDcace, policy and honour, shrunk back aghast from the delete- 
rious shade ; where all existences, nefarious and vile, had sway ; where, 
amidst the black agents on one side, and Middle ton with Impey on the other, 
the toughest head, the most unfeeling heart — the great figure of the piece, 
characteristic in his place, stood aloof and independent from the puny pro- 
fligacy in his train I — but far from idle and inactive, turning a malignant eye 
on all mischief that awaited him ! — the multiplied apparatus of temporising 
expedients, and intimidating instruments ! now cringing on his prey and 
fawning on his vengeance ! now quickening the limpid pace of craft, and 
forcing every stand that retiring nature can make in the heart I violating the 
attachments and the decorums of life ! sacrificing every emotion of tenderness 
and honour ! and flagitiously levelling all the distinctions of national charac- 
teristics ! with a long catalogue of crimes and aggravations beyond the reach 
of thought for human malignity to perpetrate, or human vengeance to punish! 

" It might have been hoped, for the honour of the human heart, that the 
Begums had been themselves exempted from a share in these sufierings ; and 
that they had been wounded only through the sides of their ministers. The 
reverse of this, however, was the fact. Their palace was surrounded by a 
guard, which was withdrawn by Major Gilpin, to avoid the growing resent- 
ments of the people, and replaced by Mr Middleton, through his fears from 
that 'dreadful responsibility' which was imposed on him by Mr Hastings. 
The women of the Khord Mahal, who had not been involved in the Begums' 
supposed crimes ; who had raised no sub-rebellion of their own ; and who, it 
had been proved, lived in a distinct dwelling, were causelessly involved in 
the same punishment ; their residence surrounded with guards, they were 
driven to despair by famine, and, when they poured forth in sad procession, 
were driven back by the soldiery, and beaten with bludgeons to the scene of 
madness which they had quitted. These were acts (Mr Sheridan observed) 
which, when told, need no comment ; he should not ofier a single syllable to 
awaken their lordships' feelings ; but leave it to the facts which had been 
proved, to make their own impressions. 

" The argument now reverted solely to this point, whether Mr Hastings 
was to be answerable for the crimes committed by his agent? It had been 
fully proved that Mr Middleton had signed the treaty with the superior Be- 
gum in October, 1778. He had acknowledged signing some others of other 
dates, but could not recollect his authority. These treaties had been fully 
recognised by Mr Hastings, as was fully proved by the evidence of Mr Pur- 
ling, in the year 1780. In that of October, 1778, the Jaghire was secured 



KICHAHD BKIJs'SLEY SHERIDAN. 161 

^vkich was allotted for the support of the women in the Khord Mahal : on 
the first idea of resuming these Jaghires a provision should have been secured 
to those unfortunate women ; and in this respect Mr Hastings was clearly 
guilty of a crime, by his omission of making such provision. But still he 
pleaded, that he was not accountable for the cruelties which had been exer- 
cised. This was the plea w^hich Tyranny, aided by its prime minister Treach- 
ery, was always sure to set up. Mr Middleton had attempted to strengthen 
this plea by endeavouring to claim the whole infamy of those transactions, 
and to monopolise the guilt ! He dared even to aver that he had been con- 
demned by Mr Hastings for the ignominious part he had acted : he dared 
to avow this, because Mr Hastings was on his trial, and he thought ,he 
should never be tried ; but in the face of the court, and before he left the bar, 
he was compelled to confess that it was for the lenience, not the severity, of 
his proceedings, that he had been reproved by Mr Hastings. 

" It would not, he trusted, be argued, that because Mr Hastings had not 
marked every passing shade of guilt, and because he had only given the bold 
outline of cruelty, that he "was therefore to be acquitted. It was laid down 
by the law of England — that law which was the perfection of reason — that a 
person ordering an act to be done by his agent, was answerable for that act 
with all its consequences. Middleton had been appointed, in 1777, the 
avowed and private agent — the second-self of Mr Hastings. The Governor- 
general had ordered the measure :'-'' Middleton declared that it could not 
have been effected by milder means. Even if he never saw, nor heard after- 
wards of the consequences of the measure, he was ansvv^erable for every pang 
that w^as inflicted, and for all the blood that w^as shed. But he had heard, 
and that instantly, of the w^hole. He had written to arraign Middleton of for- 
bearange and of neglect ! He commanded them to work upon their hopes 
and fears, and to leave no means untried, until — to speak their own language, 
but w^hich would be better suited to the banditti of a cavern — ' they obtained 
possession of the secret hoards of the old ladies.' He would not allow^ even 
of a delay of two days to smooth the compelled approaches of a son to his 
mother, on such an occasion ! His orders w^ere peremptory ; and if a massacre 
did not take place, it ^vas the merit of accident, and not of Mr Hastings. 
After this, would it be said that the prisoner was ignorant of the acts, or not 
culpable for their consequences ? It was true, he had not enjoined in so 
many words the guards, the famine, and the bludgeons ; he had not weighed 
the fetters, nor numbered the lashes to be inflicted on his victims. But yet 
he was equally guilty, as if he had borne an active and personal share in each 
transaction. It was as if he had commanded that the heart should be torn 
from the bosom, and yet had enjoined that no blood should follow. He was 
in the same degree accountable to the law, to his country, to his conscience, 
and to his God ! 

* The verbatim orders to Jiliddleton by Mr Hastings were : *' You yourself must be 
personally present, you must not allow any negotiation or forbearance ; but must prose- 
cute both services (namely, the seizure of the treasures and the resumption of the 
Jaghires), until the Begums are at the entire mercy of the Nabob." 



162 ITHE MODEKN OKATOE. 

" Mr Hastings had endeavoared also to ged rid of a part of his guilt, by 
observing that he was but one of the Supreme Council, and that all the rest 
had sanctioned those transactions with their approbation. If Mr Hastings 
could prove, however, that others participated in the guilt, it would not tend 
to diminish his own criminality. But the fact was, that the Council had in 
nothing erred so much as in a criminal credulity given to the declarations of 
the Governor-general. They knew not a word of those transactions until 
they were finally concluded. It was not until the January following that 
they saw the mass of falsehood which had been published under the title of 
* Mr Hastings's Narrative.' They had been then unaccountably duped 
into the suffering a letter to pass, dated the 29th of November, intended to 
deceive the Directors into a belief that they had received intelligence at that 
time, which was not the fact. These observations (Mr Sheridan said) were 
not meant to cast any obloquy on the Council ; they had undoubtedly been 
deceived, and the deceit practised on them by making them sign the Narra- 
tive, was of itself a strong accusation of Mr Hastings, and a decided proof of 
his own consciousness of guilt. When tired of corporeal infliction, his 
tyranny was gratified by insulting the understanding. Other tyrants, 
though born to greatness, such as a Nero, or a Caligula, might have been 
roused, it had been supposed, by reflection, and awakened into contrition ; 
but here was an instance which spurned at theory and bafifled supposition ; 
a man born to a state at least of equality, inured to calculation, and brought 
up in habits of reflection ; and yet proving in the end that monster in nature, 
a deliberate and reasoning tyrant. 

" The Board of Directors received those advices which Mr Hastings 
thought proper to transmit; but, though unfurnished with any other 
materials to form their judgments, they expressed very strongly their doubts, 
and as properly ordered an inquiry into the circumstances of the alleged 
disaffection of the Begums ; pronouncing it, at the same time, a debt which 
was due to the honour and justice of the British nation. This inquiry, how- 
ever, on the directions reaching India, Mr Hastings thought it absolutely 
necessary to elude. He stated to the Council, it being merely stated that 
' if on inquiry certain facts appeared,' no inquiry was thereby directly en- 
joined! 'It would revive (said he) those animosities that subsisted 
between the Begums and the vizier, which had then subsided. If the 
former were inclined to appeal to a foreign jurisdiction, they were the best 
judges of their own feeling, and should be left to make their own complaint.' 
All this, however, was nothing to the magnificent paragraph which concluded 
this minute, and to which Mr Sheridan also requested the attention of the 
court. ' Beside, (said Mr Hastings) I hope it will not be a departure from 
official language to say, that the majesty of justice ought not to be ap- 
proached without solicitation; she ought not to descend to inflame or 
provoke, but to withhold her judgment until she is called on to determine !' 
What is still more astonishing is, that Sir John Macpherson (who, though 
a gentleman of sense and honour, yet rather oriental in his imagination, and 



niCHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. ,163 

not learned in the sublime and beautiful, formed the immortal leader of this 
prosecution, and who had before opposed Mr Hastings) was caught by this 
bold bombastic quibble, and joined in the same words, ' that the majesty of 
justice ought not to be approached without solicitation.' 

" '^ut justice is not this halt and miserable object (continued Mr Sheridan) ; 
it is not the ineffective bauble of an Indian pagod ; it is not the portentous 
phantom of despair ; it is not like any fabled monster, formed in the eclipse 
of reason, and found in some unhallowed grove of superstitious darkness and 
political dismay ! No, my lords ! 

" In the happy reverse of all these, I turn from this disgusting caricature 
to the real image ! Justice I have now before me, august and pure — the 
abstract idea of all that would be perfect in the spirits and the aspirings of 
men ; where the mind rises, where the heart expands ; where the counte- 
nance is ever placid and benign ; where her favourite attitude is to stoop to 
the unfortunate — to hear their cry, and to help them — to rescue and relieve, 
to succour and save : majestic from its mercy ; venerable from its utility ; 
uplifted, without pride ; firm, without obduracy ; beneficent in each prefer- 
ence ; lovely, though in her frown ! 

" On that justice I rely ; deliberate and sure, abstracted from all party pur- 
pose and political speculation ; not in words, but in facts ! You, my lords, 
who hear me, I conjure by those rights it is your best privilege to preserve ; 
by that fame it is your best pleasure to inherit ; by all those feelings which 
refer to the first term in the series of existence, the original compact of our 
nature, our controlling rank in the creation. This is the call on all to ad- 
minister to truth and equity, as they would satisfy the laws and satisfy them- 
selves, with the most exalted bliss possible, or conceivable for our nature ; 
the self-approving consciousness of virtue, when the condemnation we look 
for will be one of the most ample mercies accomplished for mankind since 
the creation of the world ! 

" My lords, I have done." 

On the conclusion of Mr Sheridan's speech, the court adjourned to the 
next session of Parliament. 



Speech in reply to Lord Mornington, on moving the address to the King, 
after the speech from the throne, on the opening of Parliament, 21st Jan- 
uary, 1794, in which his Majesty urged upon Parliament the necessity of 
vigorously prosecuting the war against France, which had been declared 
shortly after the execution of Louis XVI. 

" Mr Sheridan began with observing, that the noble lord who had just 
sat down, had divided a speech, more remarkable for its ability than its 
brevity, into two parts : the first, a detail of all the atrocities that had been 
committed during the whole course of the revolution in France ; the second, 



164 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

a kind of posthumous arraignment of the offences of Brissot '^' and his asso- 
ciates. As he did not perceive any noble or learned member inclined to rise 
on behalf of the accused, so he conceived the pleadings on the part of the 
prosecution to be closed ; and, as the Speaker was evidently not proceeding 
to sum up the evidence, he hoped he might be permitted to recall the atten- 
tion of the House to the real object of that day's consideration. He admired 
the emphasis of the noble lord in reading his voluminous extracts from his 
various French documents ; he admired, too, the ingenuity he had displayed 
in his observations upon those extracts ; but he could not help further ex- 
pressing his admiration, that the noble lord should have thought proper to 
have taken up so many hours in quoting passages in which not one word in 
ten was to the purpose ; and often, where they did apply to the question, 
they directly overset the principles they were brought forward to support. 

" The noble lord's purpose was to prove that France had begun the "war 
with Great Britain ; this, he appeared to think, he had established the 
moment he had shown that Brissot and others had promulgated in print a 
great many foolish and a great many wicked general principles, mischievous 
to all established governments ; and this, indeed, had been the only way in 
w^iich any one had ever endeavoured to fix the act of hostile aggression upon 
France. No part of the King's speech, it seems, more fully met the noble 
lord's approbation than that in which he had warned us to keep in sight the 
real grounds and origin of the present war.f For his part, he knew not how 

* The leader of the Girondists, the middle party in the revolution between the Con- 
stitutionalists and the Jacobins. He was executed during the reign of terror, together 
with twenty more of his party — 1793. 

t The conduct of ministers, previous to the declaration of war, had been throughout 
most guarded and pacific towards France ; but the aggressions of the latter country, 
under the direction of its revolutionary leaders, were such that war at length became 
inevitable on the part of this country. The decree of the National Convention, in the 
name of the French nation, on the 19th November, 1792, "that they would grant fra- 
ternity to all those people who wished to procure liberty," might, of itself, have been 
construed into a declaration of war against all Europe. But, even on the incorporation 
of Savoy v/ith France, the declaration of the independence of Belgium, and the opening 
of the Scheldt, although preparations v^ere made to support her allies, England care- 
fully maintained a strict neutrality. Conferences were held betvi^een the representatives 
of the two countries, with a view to secure peace ; but, as tlie acts of the French go- 
vernment were not reconcileable with their professions, warlike preparations still con- 
tinued ; and, as a proof of the real feelings of the French government towards this 
country, it may be mentioned, that, at the very time the French minister expressed a 
desire for peace, and respect for the independence of England, a circular letter was 
sent by Monge, the Minister of Marine, to all the French sea-ports, addressed to " all 
friends of liberty," in which occurred the following passage (quoted, amongst others, 
by Mr Pitt, in the House of Commons) :— " The King and his Parliament mean to 
make war against us : will the English republicans suffer it ? Already these freemen 
show their discontent, and the repugnance which they have to bear arms against 
their brothers the French. "Well, we will fly to their assistance ; we will make a 
descent on that island ; we will hurl thither 50,000 caps of liberty ; we will plant there 



KICIIAED BRINSLEY SHEKIDAN. 165 

to obey tlie call, for he knew not how to keep in sight that which had never 
yet been in his view. The real grounds of the war had never yet been ex- 
plained, either to that House or to the nation, but shifting clouds had veiled 
them from the public eye. The noble lord, however, appears to have under- 
stood his Majesty's allusion ; he recollects the real grounds upon which the 
war was, in point of fact, undertaken ; that is, he knows the means by which 
we had been brought into this war : we had been brought into it by repeated 
declamations on all that the frenzy, folly, and rashness of individuals in 
France had either said or written, by which the passions of this country had 
been roused, or their fears excited, in order to second the views of those who 
had determined to plunge us into it at all events ; therefore the noble lord, 
consistently enough, imagined that a repetition of the same means which 
induced us to commence hostilities, was the best method of persuading us 
to continue them. Hence all this passionate declamation, hence this labo- 
rious farrago of extracts and anecdotes-— of extracts from a book which the 
noble lord allowed every one to have read ; and anecdotes, of which no man 
who saw the newspapers could be ignorant. But what was the sum of all 
that he had told the House ? that great and dreadful enormities, at which 
the heart shuddered, and which not merely wounded every feeling of hu- 
manity, but disgusted and sickened the soul, had been committed. All this 
was most true ; but what did all this prove ? What, but that eternal and 
unalterable truth which had always presented itself to his mind, in whatever 
way he had viewed the subject, namely, that a long-established despotism so 
far degraded and debased human nature, as to render its subjects, on the 
first recovery of their rights, unfit for the exercise of them ; but never had 
he, or would he, meet but with reprobation, that mode of argument which 
went, in fact, to establish, as an inference from this truth, that those who 
had been long slaves ought, therefore, to remain so for ever ! No ; the 
lesson ought to be, he would again repeat, a tenfold horror of that de- 
spotic form of government which had so profaned and changed the nature of 
civilised man, and a still more jealous apprehension of any system tending 
to withhold the rights and liberties of our fellow-creatures. Such a form of 
government might be considered as twice cursed ; while it existed, it was 
solely responsible for the miseries and calamities of its subjects ; and, should 
a day of retribution come, and the tyranny be destroyed, it was equally to be 
charged with all the enormities Vv'hich the folly or frenzy of those who over-- 
turned it should commit. 

" But the madness of the French people was not confined to their pro- 
ceedings within their own country ; we, and all the powers of Europe, had 

the sacred tree, and stretch, out our arms to our brother republicans ; the tyranny of 
their government sliall soon be destroyed." 

The precautions adopted by the EngUsh government were fully justified by the 
event ; for, within a few days after the execution of Louis XVI., the National Con- 
vention, finding their plans ripe for execution, threw off the mask, and formally de- 
clared war against the King of Great Britain, on 1st February, 1793. 



166 THE MODERN OEATOE. 

to dread it. True ; but was this also to be accounted for ? Wild and un- 
settled as their state of mind necessarily was upon the events which had 
thrown such power so suddenly into their hands, the surrounding states had 
goaded them into a still more savage state of madness, fury, and desperation. 
We had unsettled their reason and then reviled their insanity ; we drove 
them to the extremities that produced the evils we arraigned ; we baited 
them like wild beasts, until at length we made them so. The conspiracy of 
Pilnitz,"^ and the brutal threats of the royal abettors of that plot, against the 
rights of nations and of men, had, in truth, to answer for all the additional 
misery, horrors, and iniquity, which had since disgraced and incensed hu- 
manity. Such has been your conduct towards France, that you have created 
the passions which you persecute. You mark a nation to be cut off from 
the world ; you covenant for their extermination ; you swear to hunt them 
in their inmost recesses ; you load them with every species of execration ; 
and you now come forth, with whining declamations, on the horror of their 
turning upon you with the fury which you inspired. 

" Sir, I should think it sufficient to answer thus generally to all the 
pathetic appeals to the passions, so constantly resorted to on this subject ; 
but the noble lord, I am ready to admit, has, on the present occasion, endea- 
voured to ground more of argument, in one point of view, on the inflammatory 
passages and anecdotes he has quoted, than has been usual with those who 
have most practised this mode of treating the subject. I cannot, however, 
agree with the noble lord, that he has omitted any advantage to his case for 
the sake of saving our time. In going over the pamphlet of Brissot, he tells 
us, rather whimsically, that he passes over this passage, and runs over that, 
when all the while he specifically details what he declares he will scarcely 
touch upon. In fact, he has passed over nothing but the question ; and 
now, mark the purpose of all this ; observe the important conclusion for 
which, he says himself, he has dwelt so long on these facts, and I admit it to 
be a great and a serious one. Laying aside all question of aggression on the 
part of France, or of necessity, on our part, to enter into the war — all this is 
done, it seems, to show the House that the system now adopted by the 
government of that country, is so abhorrent to the feelings of human nature 
— so contrary to the instinctive love of harmony and of social order implanted 

* "What Sheridan here calls the " conspiracy," was the celebrated convention of 
Pilnitz, between the Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia, in 1791 ; the object 
of which was declared to be, to check the spread of revolutionary principles, and *• to 
employ their forces jointly, in the most efficacious manner, to place the King of Prance 
in a situation to secure, in its most perfect liberty, the basis of a monarchical govern- 
ment, equally agreeable to the right of sovereigns and the prosperity of the French 
nation." 

The language employed by Sheridan, clearly shows him to have been unfairly pre- 
judiced by party feeling. The interference of the foreign powers, though in the event 
it turned out unfortunate, was undeserving of such harsh reproach, caused, as it was^ 
by reasonable fears of the spread of principles destructive of all government and reli' 
gion, and by sympathy for the degraded position of the French king. 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 167 

In the heart of man — so ruinous to external force, as well as to internal 
peace, prosperity, and happiness, that it cannot stand. This is the conclusion 
which the noble lord wishes to draw from all the facts and opinions that he 
has detailed. I close with him. I will admit his facts. I will admit that 
the system now prevalent in France is all that he has called it : and what 
ought to be our conclusion with respect to such a government ? What, but 
that we ought to leave to the natural workings of the discords which it is 
calculated to engender, the task of its overthrow ; that if it will not stand of 
itself, it is not necessary for us to attack it. Without disputing any of his 
premises, for the present, I will grant the noble lord, not only his principle, 
but the foundation upon Avhich he builds it. I agree with him, that it is 
contrary to the eternal and unalterable laws of nature, and to the decrees of 
the Maker of man and of nations, that a government founded on and main- 
tained by injustice, rapine, murder, and atheism, can have a fixed endurance 
or a permanent success ; that there are, self-sown in its own bosom, the 
seeds of its own inevitable dissolution. But if so, whence is our mission to 
become the destroying angel to guide and hasten the anger of the Deity ? 
Who calls on us to offer, "with more than mortal arrogance, the alliance of a 
mortal arm to the Omnipotent ? or to snatch the uplifted thunder from his 
hand, and point our erring aim at the devoted fabric w^hich his original will 
has fated to fall and crumble in that ruin which it is not in the means of man 
to accelerate or prevent ? I accede to him the piety of his principle ; let him 
accede to me the justice of my conclusion ; or let him attend to experience, 
if not to reason; and must he not admit, that hitherto all the attempts of his 
apparently powerful, but certainly presumptuous, crusade of vengeance, have 
appeared unfavoured by fortune and by Providence ; that they have hitherto 
had no other effect than to strengthen the powers — to whet the rapacity — 
to harden the heart — to inflame the fury, and to augment the crimes of that 
government, and that people, whom we have rashly sworn to subdue, to 
chastise, and to reform ? 

" The noble lord appears to have been aware that the number of passages 
he has quoted from Brissofs book, and other publications, must be considered 
as having no other object than to excite the mirth or inflame the passions of 
the House, unless he had concluded by drawing some inference from them 
applicable to the real subject in discussion ; and this, at length, he has con- 
descended to attempt, by affirming they all tended to prove that France not 
only must have been the aggressor, and England the attacked party, but that 
France is still the party desirous of continuing the war. But how have his 
quotations borne him out ? That Brissot and Robespierre, previous to the 
experiment on Brabant,* equally wished to propagate principles of re- 



* At the commencement of the war between France and the allied powers of Aus- 
tria and Prussia, and immediately after the celebrated declaration of the convention of 
Pilnitz, Dumouriez, the French minister, taking advantage of the unsettled state of 
Brabant and Flanders (which, only two years previously, had been in open rebellion 



168 ' THE MODERN OBATOli. 

publicanism in every country in Europe. I will grant to him, if he pleases, 
the latter endeavoured to eifect it by force in Brabant, while the former 
wished to accomplish it by reason, and the example of prosperity which he 
hoped France would afford. But what does all this prove, when the noble 
lord, in the very same breath, is obliged to confess that a short experience 
made both parties retract their opinion and practice ; and, so far from boast- 
ing of having provoked a war with England upon such principles, or for such 
purposes, the strongest reproach that either faction could throw upon the 
other was, in mutual accusation, of having been the cause of war with the 
only power in Europe with whom France was eager to continue at peace? 
On this head, says the noble lord, ' Robespierre imputes it to Brissot, 
Brissot retorts it upon Robespierre ; the Jacobins charge it upon the 
Girondists, the Girondists recriminate upon the Jacobins ; the mountain 
thunders it upon the valley,^ and the valley re-echoes it back against the 
mountain ;' all facts, tending to contradict the assertion which the noble lord 
professed to establish by them, and making still plainer — what, indeed, the 
whole conduct of France had made sufficiently manifest at the time — namely, 
that there was no one party, of whatever description, in that country, which 
was not earnest to avoid a rupture with this,f nor any party which we may not 

against the Emperor), determined to assume the offensive, and invade Belgium. The 
spirit of insurrection existing in that country, and the weakness of the Flemish for- 
tress, were reckoned as almost ensuring success to the enterprise. Owing, however, 
to the unwise division of the French army (consisting principally of young troops) 
into four columns, the expedition ended in total failure. But the victory of the Aus- 
trians did not last long : within a few months Dumouriez again invaded Belgium, and 
this time with better success. The battle of Jemappe, in which the French were com- 
pletely successful, decided the event of the campaign, and Dumouriez entered Brussels 
in triumph on 13th November, 1792, and the whole of Flanders, Brabant, and Hainault, 
with the other Belgian provinces, were subjected to France. Soon afterwards, several 
pretended deputies from the Belgian people hastened to Paris, and implored the Con- 
vention to grant them a share of that liberty and equality which was to confer such 
inestimable blessings on France. Various decrees were issued in consequence ; and, 
after the mockery of a public choice, hurried on in several of the towns by hired Jaco- 
bins and well-paid patriots, the incorporation of the Austrian Netherlands with the 
French republic was formally pronounced. 

In the next campaign, Dumouriez was beaten by the Austrians under the Prince of 
Saxe Coburg, at Neerwinden, and Belgium placed under the government of the Arch- 
duke Charles, the Emperor's brother. But, in 1795, the republican arms again pre- 
vailed ; and, by the victory at Fleurns, the French a second time became masters of the 
country. The representatives of Brussels once more repaired to the National Conven- 
tion of France, to solicit the re-incorporation of the two countries, which was declared 
on the 1st October, 1795. 

* The Jacobins, under Robespierre, occupied the upper benches on the left, while the 
Girondists occupied the right of the assembly. From this circumstance, the Jacobins 
acquired the name of " The Mountain," while those members who belonged to neither 
party filled the middle space, and were designated the *' Plain, or Marsh." 

t As to the honesty of the professions of peace, see note p. 1 64. The real inten- 
tions of the French government were also evidenced by the following fact, viz., that 



mCHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDA]^'. 169 

at this moment reasonably believe to be inclined to put an end to hostilities. 
" The noble lord, however, thinks he has established a great deal, when 
he has proved that all parties in the Convention were, at the same time, fond 
of the system of fraternising, at it is called, or of making proselytes to the 
general principles of republicanism. It may be so ; but it would not have 
been uncandid in the noble lord to have dated the origin of this system, and 
to have marked the provocation to it ; nor unfair to have acknowledged that 
even this principle also has been since completely abandoned by all parties. 
If he refers to it as a motive for our entertaming a just jealousy of them, he 
ought to admit their abandonment of it as a ground for our abandoning that 
jealousy. If their professing such a doctrine was a provocation to hostility 
on our part, their retracting it is an opening to reconciliation. From the 
moment they solemnly disavowed all intention or disposition to interfere in 
the governments of other nations, why should not we have renounced any 
intention of interfering in theirs ? But instead of this, what has been our 
conduct ? We continue to remind and reproach the French with their unjust 
and insolent conduct in respect to Brabant and Genoa ; at the same time we 
ourselves adopt and act upon the very principles they have abjured, or rather 
upon principles of still more extravagant insolence and injustice. Who did 
not reprobate the folly and profligacy of endeavouring to force upon the 
people of Brabant, French forms, French principles, and French creeds — of 
dragging them to the tree of liberty, and forcing them to dance round its 
roots, or to hang upon its branches ! But what has been the conduct of 
Great Britain, so loud in the condemnation of such tyranny, under the mask 
of liberty ? What has been her conduct to Genoa — to Switzerland — to Tus- 
cany — and, as far as she dared, to Denmark and to Sweden? For her inso- 
lence has been accompanied by its usual attendant, meanness. Her injustice 
has been without magnanimity. She wished to embark the world in the 
confederacy against France, the moment she thought proper to join it. That 
neutrality, of which she herself boasted but a month before, became instantly 
a heinous crime in any other state of Europe — and how has she proceeded ? 
With those that are powerful, and whose assistance would have been impor- 

011 the 10th January, 1793, Dumouvicz communicated with Moranda, who commanded 
the French army in the Netherlands, in his absence, and directed him to prepare, with 
all possible secresy, to invade Holland, then in alliance with this country, within 
twelve days ; yet, only two days after these orders had been given, the Convention 
passed a decree, directing the council to inform the Biitish government that it was the 
intention of the republic to maintain peace and fraternity with England, and to respect 
her independence, as well as that of her allies, so long as they should not attack France. 
A further instance, also, of the real designs of the French government against this 
country and its constitution, appeared by the reply of the President of the Convention 
to a republican address by a deputation of Englishmen, in which he observed, " that 
royalty in Europe was in the agonies of death ; that the declaration of right, now placed 
by the side of thrones, was a fire which in the end would consume them; and he even 
hoped that the time was not far distant, when France, England, Scotland, and Ireland- 
all Europe— all mankind— would form but one peaceful family.'' 



170 THE MODERN ORATOE. 

tant, she has only expostulated and prevaricated ; but in how little, as well 
as odious a light, has she appeared, when threatening and insulting those 
petty states whose least obedience to her tyrannic mandates might bring great 
peril on themselves, and whose utmost eiForts could give but little aid to the 
allies ? The noble lord has, with a just indignation, execrated the cruel and 
perfidious conduct of the fraternising French to the Brabanters ; but will he 
defend the fraternity of the just and magnanimous to these Genoese ? Have 
we not adopted the very words, as well as spirit, of democratic tyranny? 
We say to the timid, helpless Genoese, 'You have no right to judge for 
yourselves ; we know what is best for you ; you must and shall make a 
common cause with us; you must adopt our principles, our views, our 
hatreds, and our perils ; you must tremble at dangers which do not threaten 
you, and resent injuries which have never been offered to you ; you must 
shed your republican blood in the cause of royalty ; in short, you must fra- 
ternise with us ; you must be our friends, our allies. If you hesitate, we will 
beat your walls about your ears, slaughter your people, and leave your city 
in smoking ruins, as an example to other petty states of the magnanimity of 
the British arms, and of the justice and moderation of British counsels.' 
Oh, shame, Sir ! let us never hear these fraternising principles, formerly pro- 
fessed by France, quoted as a just provocation for attacking her, while we 
ourselves, with the most shameless inconsistency, are avowing them in every 
part of Europe, and practising them where we dare. 

"The noble lord, still pursuing his anecdotes and his argument, that France 
must have been the aggressor, and that the war was a war of necessity on 
our part, next retails to us the conduct of Citizen Genet,"^ her emissary to 
the United States of America. Here, again, I give the noble lord his facts, 
and again I declare him to be equally unfortunate in his conclusion. I admit 
everything as he states it, with respect to Citizen Genet. I agree in con- 
demning the impolitic outrages he practised against the government of 
America ; I reprobate the indecent insults he offered to General Washington; 
I disapprove of his erection of Jacobin clubs in that country, his establishing 
consular tribunals for the judgment of prizes, &:c., &c. But why has the 
noble lord overlooked the event of all these heinous and repeated provoca- 
tions ? America remains neutral, prosperous, and at peace ; America, with 
a wisdom, prudence, and magnanimity which we have disdained, thrives at 
this moment in a state of envied tranquillity, and is hourly clearing the paths 
to unbounded opulence. America has monopolised the commerce and the 
advantages which we have abandoned. Oh, turn your eyes to her ; view 

* This French agent had, by his endeavours to introduce the French revolutionary 
principles, and to rouse the Americans to take an active part in support of their former 
allies, the French, against the English, fomented an insurrection in the counties of 
Alleghany and Washington, which was with difficulty suppressed, by the energy and 
moderation of Washington, who was president at the time. The divisions caused by 
Genet continued long after his recall, and subsequently formed a cause of complaint 
by the United States to the French government. 



RICHAED BRINSLEY SHEEIDAN. I7l 

her situation, her happiness, her content ! Observe her trade and her manu- 
factures adding daily to her general credit, to her private enjoyments, and to 
her public resources ; her name and government rising above the nations of 
Europe, with a simple but commanding dignity, which wins at once the 
respect, the confidence, and the affection of the world. And is America 
degraded by this conduct and by this condition ? Has Washington debased 
himself by his temper and moderation ? Has he sunk his character, and 
made himself contemptible in the eyes of the high-spirited statesmen of 
Europe ? Will the noble lord attempt to prove this ? or will he abandon 
his instance and his argument ? The conduct of the French, in sending such 
a missionary as Genet to America, is brought up by him as the strongest 
proof of the enmity of the French to the peace and existing governments of 
all nations, and of the necessity of all nations uniting against them ; and the 
behaviour of Genet himself is stated as an outrage too gross for human pa- 
tience to submit to ; and yet, the selfish American senate, confiding in the 
good sense of their fellow- citizens, conscious of never having betrayed their 
trust, and looking only to the interests of the people they represented, found 
no cause for war or quarrel in the novelty or madness of French principles ; 
and mean Washington felt no personal resentment at insults which did not 
provoke, because they could not degrade him ! 

" Such has been the event of two nations viewing the same circum- 
stances in a different temper and with different sensations. Both had been 
equally insulted by this new presumptuous republic ; attempts had been 
equally made to spread the doctrines of that republic in the bosoms of both : 
both were equally interested in the preservation of the principles of civil 
order and regular government : yet, owing to the different councils that di- 
rected these two nations, the Americans are, at this moment, the undismayed, 
undegraded, and unembarrassed spectators of the savage broils of Europe ; 
whilst we are engaged in a struggle, as we have been this day distinctly told 
by our Ministers, not for our glory or prosperity, but for our actual existence 
as a nation. 

" The next part fromBrissot's pamphlet dwelt upon by the noble lord as a 
further proof that the French had always intended to make war against us, 
was, that the minister Monge had promised, as early as October, to have 
thirty ships of the line at sea from Brest, in April, and fifty in July ; but this, 
it seems, was happily prevented by the vigorous measures of the British 
ministry ; and if our ministers had not taken the steps they did, the noble 
lord tells us, by the bye, they would have deserved to have been whipped as 
schoolboys, or hanged as traitors. And what Avere the vigorous exertions 
which these vigilant ministers made .^ Forsooth, they stopped two corn 
ships'^* in the river Thames, destined for France ; and this, it seems, totally 



* Soon after the commencement of the war with France, orders were given to detain 
all American vessels freighted with corn to that country, paying for them and the 
freight ; and shortly afterwards an order was issued to seize all American ships carrying 



172 THE MODEEN OEATOU. 

defeated the equipment of these fifty ships of the line ! But here let me ask 
the noble lord how it came to pass, if our ministers had such intelligence as 
early as October, that no naval preparations were commenced on our part 
till the month of February ? for this fact has been admitted by him in an- 
other part of his speech ; and the lateness of our equipment has been pleaded 
by him with another view, forgetting that there cannot be a stronger charge 
brought against his friends, and that they do indeed deserve to be whipped 
as schoolboys, or hanged as traitors, if, after receiving intelligence of the 
French preparations so early as October, they neglected, as in fact they did, 
all precautions on the part of this country, excepting the notable and power- 
ful expedient of plundering two neutral sloops of a few sacks of French 
corn ! 

" However, laying aside the merit or demerit of our minister, no proof to 
the noble lord's purpose arises out of this threat of the minister Monge. The 
noble lord himself confesses that no part of the promise v/as kept ; it was, 
in fact, a natural gasconade of the French admiralty, at a time we were insult- 
ing them ; and, that the execution of such an equipment was not attempted,"^* 
is much stronger evidence of their not having intended to break with us, 
than their having made the boast, is of a contrary determination. But it is, 
unfortunately, the interest of the cause the noble lord is supporting, to refer, 
on all occasions, to words, rather than to facts. 

" The noble lord, still pursuing his authority, Brissot, quotes that author's 
recommendation to the English of a pamplilet of Condorcet's,f addi'essed to 
our parliamentary reformers ; who encourages us, it seems, to proceed to dis- 
regard numbers, assuiing us (being well informed, doubtless, of our object) 
that ' revolutions must always be the work of the minority. The French 
revolution was accomplished by the minority !' Nay, according to Brissot, 
it was the work of no more than twenty men ! Such is the exertion that 
arises from the confidence of those who look to spirit and energy alone for 
success, and not to numbers. If this be true, it certainly is a most ominous 
thing for the enemies of reform in England ; for if it holds true of necessity, 
that the minority still prevails in national contests, it must be a consequence 
that the smaller the minority the more certain must be the success. In what 
a dreadful situation then must the noble lord be, and all the alarmists ! for 
never, surely, was the minority so small, so thin in number as the present. 

provisions and stores to the French colonies, and to compel them to give security to 
land their cargoes in British or neutral ports. In consequence of this last order more 
than 600 American vessels were seized in five months. 

* It appears, however, that on the 13th of January, 1792 (the day after the decree 
of the Convention, mentioned in note p. 168), an addition of thirty line of battle ships 
was made to the French navy, though the French had then in commission more ships 
than were preparing in the British ports. 

t One of the most distinguished disciples of Voltaire, and in politics a Girondist. 
However misled, he appears to have been a true philanthropist, and a man of im wearied 
activity in promoting all such reforms as he thought beneficial. 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 173 

Conscious, however, that M. Condorcet was mistaken in our object, I am 
glad to find that we are terrible in proportion as we are few ; I rejoice that 
the liberality of session, which has thinned our ranks, has onlj^ served to 
make us more formidable. The alarmists will hear this with new apprehen- 
sions ; they will, no doubt, return to us with a view to diminish our force, 
and encumber us with their alliance in order to reduce us to insignificance. 
But what has the nonsense any French pamphleteer may have written, or the 
notions he may have formed of the views of parties in this country, to do 
with the question ? or how can it be gravely urged as a proof of the determi- 
nation of the French people to attack us ? 

" The noble lord having gone through this part of his detail, triumphantly 
asks, whether he has not established his point, and proved the hostile mind 
of France, and that the object of all her parties was war with England? To 
which I answer, that he has proved nothing like it, and that two-thirds 
of the instances he has adduced have a tendency to prove the contrary. 
But instead of diving, for their purposes, in the random words of their ora- 
tors, in the more flighty controversies of their party writers, or even in the 
hasty and incoherent reports of their committees, let us look to acts and facts; 
let us examine fairly the conduct of Great Britain towards France, and of 
France towards Great Britain, from the 10th of August* to the declaration 
of war." 

[Here Mr Sheridan enumerated the various circumstances which showed 
the growing inveteracy of Great Britain from the first outbreak of the revolution 
to the time of the King's death; the countenance given to the treaty of Pilnitz, 
the withdrawal of our minister from Paris, the seizure of French property in 
neutral vessels, the banishing of French subjects, the violation of the treaty 
of commerce, and, finally, the dismissal of their ambassador ; all of which he 
contended had been borne by the French with a submission which nothing but 
their desire of peace with this country could have produced, amidst the fury 
and pride which actuated their conduct towards all the rest of Europe.] 

" They solicited, they expostulated ; they pressed for explanation and ne- 
gotiation ; and even after their ambassador had been driven from this country 
they sent a new negotiator ;f nor did the sincerity of their professions for 
peace with us depend on words alone ; for, to preserve this object, they ac- 
tually abstained from the invasion of Holland when within their grasp, when 
their arms appeared irresistible, and success inevitable. Every fact spoke 
aloud that we forced France into the quarrel. Which party first declaimed, 
' We are at war,' is a matter of trivial and childish distinction ; nor do I, in 

* The day of the memorable attack on the Tuilleries, la 1792. 

t On the news of the execution of Louis XYI. arriving in London, M. Chauvelin, the 
French minister, received notice to quit the British dominions within eight days, as 
France no longer had any government that could be recognised. After war had been 
declared, Le Brun, the French Minister for Foreign Affairs, in April, 1793, proposed to 
send M. Maret as plenipotentiary to this country, to negotiate terms of peace ; but the 
British government took no notice of the proposition. 



174 THE MODERN ORATOK. 

this place, mean to argue that Great Britain was wrong in so preferring s 
state of open war against France, and joining in the general confederacy 
against her ; nay, I will for the present grant that it was a war of sound 
sense, policy, and justice; but still it was a war of choice on the part of Great 
Britain ; and from, that responsibility the Minister never can, nor shall, dis- 
engage himself. 

" Embarked, however, as we are in the war, it must, no doubt, be a matter 
of astonishment to many gentlemen to find the advocates of Ministers so 
eternally and earnestly labouring in proof of France having been the aggres- 
sor, and of having chosen to make war on us. The prominent point for the 
present discussion seems rather, under the circumstances, to be, how we 
shall end the conflict, let who will have begun it ; or, if peace cannot be had, 
how we shall prosecute the war with vigour and success. But the object of 
these gentlemen, in recurring to the other ground, is obvious. They will 
not hear of peace ; they do not wish for it ; and, finding themselves feeble in 
argument to show that the country ought to be of their opinion, they endea- 
vour to establish a belief that it is France who does not wish for peace with 
us ; and this they think they do establish by proving, or rather by asserting, 
that it was France who provoked the war. If the war commenced in self- 
defence and necessity on our part, self-defence and necessity must continue 
it. They would evade the question, whether it is our interest to have peace, 
by arguing, that it is not in our power : from this delusion it is of the utmost 
importance that the public mind should be rescued. 

" All the professed objects for which we went to war have been obtained : 
our ally, Holland, is safe ; Brabant is recovered ; the ideas of adding to the 
extent of their own country, or of interfering in the government of others, 
but as measures of warfare and retaliation, have been distinctly and unequi- 
vocally disavowed by the present government of France ; and notwithstand- 
ing all their lofty boasts and insulting threats, which are, in truth, the mere 
retorts of passion to our wild declamations against them, there is no question 
but that they would be ready to treat with us, or with any of the allied 
powers, to-morrow, simply upon the principle of being left to the exercise of 
their own will within their own boundaries. Let the experiment be made: 
if they prefer and persist in war, then I will grant that the noble lord will 
have some reason to maintain that their minds were always disposed to that 
measure, and that war could not have been avoided on our part. But till 
then, I am astonished that the minister who sits near the noble lord does not 
feel it necessary to his own dignity to oppose, himself, this paltry argument 
of the act of aggression having come from them, instead of leaving that task 
to us, to whom, comparatively, the fact is indifferent. "When he hears this 
called a war of necessity and defence, I wonder he does not feel ashamed of 
the meanness which it spreads over the whole of his cause, and the contradic- 
tion it diffuses among the greater part of his arguments. Will he meet the 
matter fairly ? Will he answer to this one question distinctly — If France 
had abstained from any act of aggression against Great Britain, and her ally, 
Holland, should we have remained inactive spectators of the last campaign^ 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 1T5 

idle, apart, and listening to the fray, leaving the contest to Austria and 
Prussia, and whatever allies they could themselves have obtained ? If he 
says this, mark the dilemma into which he brings himself, his supporters, 
and the nation. This war is called a war unlike all other wars that ever man 
was engaged in. It is a war, it seems, commenced on a different principle* 
and carried on for a different purpose from all other wars. It is a war 
in which the interest of individual nations is absorbed in the wider 
consideration of the interest of mankind. It is a war in which per- 
sonal provocation is lost in the outrage offered generally to civilised 
man; — it is a war for the preservation of the possessions, the morals* 
and the religion of the world ; — it is a war for the maintenance of human 
order and the existence of human society. Does he then mean to say that 
he would have sat still — that Great Britain would have sat still — with arms 
folded, and, reclining in luxurious ease on her commercial couch, have re- 
mained an unconcerned spectator of this mighty conflict, and left the cause of 
civil order, government, morality, and religion, and its God, to take care of 
itself ? or to owe its preservation to the mercenary exertions of German and 
Hungarian barbarians, provided only that France had not implicated Great 
Britain by a special offence, and forced us into this cause of divine and uni- 
versal interest by the petty motive of a personal provocation? He will not 
tell us so ; or, if he does, to answer a momentary purpose, will he hold the 
same language to our allies ? Will he speak thus to the Emperor ? Will he 
speak thus to the King of Prussia ? Will he tell them that we are not 
volunteers in this cause ? — that we have no merit in having entered into it ? 
— that we are in confederacy with them only to resent a separate insult 
offered to themselves ; which redressed, our zeal in the cause, at least, if not 
our engagements to continue in the alliance, must cease ? Or, if he would 
hold this language to those powers, will he repeat it to those lesser states 
whom we are hourly dragging into this perilous contest, upon the only plea 
by which such an act of tyrannical compulsion can be attempted to be pal- 
liated, namely, that a personal ground of complaint against the French is not 
necessary to their enmity ? but, that as the league against that people is the 
cause of human nature itself, every country where human feelings exist has 
already received its provocation in the atrocities of this common enemy of 
human kind. But, why do I ask him whether he would hold this language 
to the Emperor, or the King of Prussia ? The King of Prussia, Sir, at this 
moment tells you, even with a menacing tone, that it is your own war; he has 
demanded from you a subsidy and a loan ;^' you have endeavoured to evade 
his demand by pleading the tenor of your treaty of defensive alliance with 

* A British subsidy of two millions and a half was afterwards voted in April, 1794, 
at the instance of Mr Pitt, to enable the King of Prussia to keep the field. There 
seems much reason to doubt the good faith of the Prussian monarch towards his allies ; 
and it was generally believed in England that, as Prussia had begun the war from the 
hope of dismembering Prance, she was anxious to recede from it the moment she foiin4 
that object impracticable. 

N 2 



176 THE MODERN OSATOK. 

him, and that, as the party attacked, you are entitled to the whole of his ex- 
ertions. He denies that you are the party attacked, though he applauds the 
principles upon which you are the aggressor ; and is there another power in 
Europe to whom our government will venture to refer the decision of this 
question ? If what I now state is not the fact, let me see the Minister stand 
up and contradict me. If he cannot, let us no longer bear that a fallacy should 
be attempted to be imposed on the people of this country, which would be 
treated with scorn and indignation in every other corner of Europe. From 
this hour let him either abandon the narro w ground of this being a war of 
necessity, entered into for self-defence, or give up the lofty boast of its being 
a war of principle, undertaken for the cause of human nature. 

" Still, still, however, be the war a war of necessity or choice, of defence 
or of principle, peace must some time or other be looked to. True ; but in 
the present state of France, first, it is contended that no means of negotiation 
can be found : and, secondly, that even if you negotiated and agreed, no se- 
curity for the performance of the agreement is to be had An honourable mem- 
ber behind the noble lord (Mr Hawkins Browne) has given it as his opinion, that 
we, who recommend peace, ought to point out the means by which Ministers 
may commence and carry on a negotiation. With submission, I should ra- 
ther have thought it a fitter proceeding that those who embark a nation in 
war for a specific purpose, should be called on to point out the probable 
means of obtaining the end proposed ; but no such thing. Ask them what 
their end is, or how it is to be obtained : the constant answer is, No matter ; 
the war is a just war, and it is impossible to treat for peace; we know not 
even how to set about it ; and with this answer we must be content to per- 
severe in a pursuit which all experience has proved to be ruinous, in order to 
attain an object which no man attempts to prove to be practicable. The noble 
lord, however, does not lay so much stress on the impossibility of our treating 
for peace under the present circumstances, as upon the improbability of such 
a peace being safe or permanent. What security can we have for the con- 
tinuance of a peace made with such a government as that of France ? The 
factions of to day are supplanted by others to-morrow ; the rulers of the hour 
pass in succession from the tribune to the scaffold ; there is nothing perma- 
nent or stable in their system. Granted. And what then are you waiting for 
before you will treat ? Is it simply that you will have some person on the 
throne of France — some first magistrate with the name of King, be his power 
what it may, before you will enter into any negotiation ? I suspect that this 
feeling is obstinately rooted in the minds of some persons. It is not, however^ 
avowed ; on the contrary, our own proclamations declare, that though the re- 
establishment of monarchy in France would be a soothing and conciliatory 
circumstance, it is not an indispensable preliminary to the re-establishment 
of peace. What, then, is the desideratum ? A stable and responsible system 
of government of some sort or other, that would give a reasonable expectation 
of duration and security to peace when established. 

" I ask, is any change which our arms may probably effect in France likely to 



HICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 



177 



produce such a government ? The form of it we are not to prescribe. Where 
are the men we hope to see come forward ? We commenced with reprobating 
and reviling La Fayette, Rochefoucalt, and the whole party of reforming royal- 
ists. Brissot and the republicans of the 10th of August overthrew and destroyed 
that party. We may boast of having assisted Robespierre and Danton in the 
destruction of Brissot and those republicans. Robespierre and Danton now pos- 
sess the lead. Are you waiting till such men as Hebert and Chaumette* shall 
have destroyed Robespierre and Danton ? Would such a change give you the 
stable responsibility and trustworthy government you desire ? or do you see 
any class of men still under them, which, in the revolution of enormities, gives 
you a fairer promise of your object ? No man will hold out such an expecta- 
tion. Whence, then, can arise the sort of government with whom you would 
condescend to treat ? I affirm, from only one possible source ; from a general 
reformation in the public mind of France, founded on a deep sense of their 
calamities, and a just abhorrence of their past crimes. Then will cease their 
bloody internal enmities ; then will cease the selfish, factious contests of their 
leaders ; then will cease their revolting system of plunder, rapine, and im- 
piety ; then, in other words, will be established their republic on the immortal 
and unconquerable principles of wisdom and of justice, which, without di- 
minishing the invincible enthusiasm which even now animates their military 
exertions, will supply those exertions with copious and unperishable resources; 
and then truly we shall have no objection to acknowledge them as a nation, 
and to treat with them. Admirable prudence ! consummate policy ! Whilst 
the certain seeds of internal discord, weakness, and dissolution are sown 
among them, and are checked in their rank growth only by the counteraction 
of stronger feelings against the foreign enemies that surround them, we will 
not stoop to treat, because we cannot have security for the future ; but if, 
fortunately, our perseverance in assailing them shall at length eradicate all 
that is vicious and ruinous in their internal system, strengthening, as at the 
same time it must, the energies and solidity of their government, then our 
pride will abate, respectful negotiation will follow, and a happy peace may 
be concluded — a happy peace, for the terms of which we must be left in 
future for ever at theiy mercy ! This I contend to be, if not the object, the 
result of waiting for that stable, responsible, and trustworthy government in 
France which the noble lord demands ; unless, as I said before, the operative, 
though not the avowed motive for the war, is simply to establish a monarchy 
in that country, or perish in the attempt. 

" Leaving the origin and object of the war, our attention is next called to 
the great progress that has been made by the allies since we entered into the 
confederacy ! Our success has been such, it seems, that we ought to proceed, 

* The leaders of the party of " Anarchists," or ultra-revolutionists, actuated by the 
basest passions, and utterly devoid of all moral or religious feeling. Endeavouring to 
stir up the populace against the Convention, and raise themselves on its fall, they caused 
their own destruction; being suddenly arrested, and, as a natural consequence at that 
time, immediately led to the scaffold. 



178 THE MODEKN" ORATOH. 

be the object what it may. First, the noble lord asks, with a triumphant 
air, whether France is not in a mnch worse condition than at the beginning 
of the campaign ? Unquestionably she is : she has lost some hundreds of 
thousands of lives, and exhausted many millions of resource ; and what is 
more, Sir, all Europe is in a worse condition, for the same reason. But I 
demand an answer to a question more to the purpose, and in truth the only 
question which belongs to the argument. I ask if there is any one man, in 
this House or out of it, who thinks that the allies are nearer to the object 
they had in view, than they were at the beginning of the campaign ? Let 
this question be fairly and honestly answered before we madly goad this 
nation to new exertions, and load our fellow- subjects with new burdens. I 
meet the noble lord in his review of the state of the allies and of France at 
the commencement of the campaign, and at the present hour ; but I enter 
into that review with the object I have stated before my eyes, and not to 
strike a balance on little petty successes which conduce nothing to the main 
purpose. 

" Previous to the ending of the last session of parliament, my right honour- 
able friend (Mr Fox) renewed, by a motion in this House, his exhortation to 
government to treat for peace. We had then achieved all the avowed pur- 
poses for which we went to war. Holland was safe, — the opening of the 
Scheldt out of the question, — the enemy was driven out of Brabant, — we had 
succeeded in the "West Indies, — Tobago was taken, — and Lord Hood had 
sailed to the Mediterranean with a force sufficient to insure the superiority of 
the British flag in that quarter. Yet all these advantages, now so vauntingly 
enumerated, were then held as trifles ; they were treated comparatively as 
insignificant matters ; and nothing but some important, decisive blow against 
the common enemy, which the power of the allies in the ensuing campaign 
was certain to effect, could make it prudent to think of peace. , What has 
that campaign produced? The surrender of Conde, Valenciennes, and 
Quesnoy ; the re-possession of Mayence, and the partial destruction of the 
marine of Toulon. Compare this with our boasts, our exertions, and expec- 
tations, with what has been gained to the cause of France. First, the very 
corner-stone on which the hope of the most sanguine rested, was not (for they 
had before their eyes the experience of the Duke of Brunswick's former 
campaign"^') the vigour and probable impression of the invading arms ; but 
the zeal, the numbers, and the fury of the royal party in France, then roused 

* The Duke of Brunswick acted as generalissimo of the combined armies of Austria 
and Prussia, on the occasion of the first rupture with France after the convention of 
Pilnitz. After publishing his celebrated violent manifesto, threatening extermination 
to all opponents (which certainly aggravated the evils it was intended to repress), and 
marching as the champion of Christendom against revolutionary Prance, to punish her 
for her misdeeds, and reinstate a constitutional government, all Europe was filled with 
surprise when, having at length come up with the main body of the Republican army 
under Dumouriez, a negotiation was quietly entered into, and orders given to retreat to 
Germany, and the allied army ignominiously returned home without having accom- 
plished a single object for which the expedition was formed. 



mCHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 179 

to action by their monarch's recent execution, and encouraged by the indig- 
nation and horror which that event appeared universally to excite. Where 
now is that royal party ? Where is the hope which pointed to their banners ? 
They rose, indeed, and everything that courage, vengeance, and despair could 
dictate, they attempted. Long and fruitlessly they looked to the allies for 
assistance ; at length the voice and the flag of Britain cheered their hearts 
and roused their efforts ; would, for the honour of Britain, we could bury the 
event in silent shame, and in the graves of the poor mangled victims of their 
own delusion and our professions ! If there yet exists an eagerness for a 
royal crusade in England, will the British arms ever again insult the coasts 
of Brittany or Provence with the offer of their protection? If there yet 
remains the remnant of a royal party in France, will Toulon"^* and Noirmoutier 
ever be forgotten ? The great body of the French royalists is destroyed and 
annihilated, and with them the very strongest ground upon which we built 
our first expectations of success. 

" The next point most relied upon by the eager advocates for the war, was 
the state even of the republican parties in, Paris. Two factions,! equally 
anti-monarchical, but actuated by the most fell and deadly animosity towards 
each other, ruled, severed, and dispirited the French people. By the furious 
contests of the leaders of these parties, the attention of the nation was en- 
grossed, their efforts were enfeebled, their exertions shackled, and their hopes 
dismayed. Observers in all parts looked for a speedy and open conflict 
between them ; and it was confidently and reasonably expected that the 
event of that conflict would inevitably be a ferocious and extensive civil war. 

* The cities of Toulon, Lyons, and Marseilles were the first to rebel against the 
bloodthirsty tyranny of the Convention. Lyons was, after two months' siege, taken 
by storm, by the revolutionary army, and its inhabitants cruelly massacred, and the 
city almost totally demolished. Marseilles, terrified by the dreadful fate of Lyons, 
submitted without resistance ; but Toulon resolutely refused to yield, and sought the 
aid of the English fleet in the Mediterranean, under Lord Hood, who immediately threw 
into the town a reinforcement of 14,000 men, of whom about 5,000 were English. After 
a desperate resistance, it was found impossible to save the town, and the allies, after 
setting fire to the French arsenal and ships of the line, and four frigates which were in 
the harbour, with the greatest difficulty re-embarked, and conveyed on board as many 
of the wretched inhabitants as possible in the confusion, leaving the rest to experience 
the merciless barbarity of their besiegers, who, on seeing the arsenal on fire, rushed for- 
ward, en masse, to wreak their revenge on the defenceless royalists. Numbers plunged 
into the sea, and made fruitless endeavours to reach the vessels ; others were seen to 
shoot themselves on the beach, to avoid a more terrible death from the enraged repub- 
licans. The ships, crowded with a heterogenous mixture of different nations — men, 
women, and children from the hospitals— the mangled soldiers fi:om their posts, with 
their wounds undressed — and the whole harbour resounding with the cries of distraction 
and agony from husbands, wives, parents, and children left on the shore, exhibited a 
scene dreadful beyond description. The flames at the same time spreading in all direc- 
tions, with the blazing ships threatening every moment to explode and blow all around 
them into the air, rendered the spectacle more terrible. In short, neither language can, 
express, nor the pencil paint,the horrors of that dreadful night, 19th December, 1793, — 
Hughes. 

t The Jacobins and the Girondists. 



180 THE MODERN OUATOK. 

This expectation was among the foremost of the resources of the allies. What 
has happened ? To the astonishment of the world, one of these parties, ap- 
parently the most feeble, has not merely subdned, but extinguished the other — 
subdued them almost without an effort, and extinguished them without even 
an attempt made to avenge them ; whilst the conquering party appear from 
that hour to have possessed not only more power, more energy, and more 
confidence, than any of their predecessors since the revolution, but even a 
vigour and fascination of influence and authority unparalleled in the history 
of mankind. This reliance, therefore, though reckoned on at the commence- 
ment of the campaign as a host of hope, is also gone. 

" Again, we were told that the disgusting system of cashiering and de- 
stroying all the old-experienced officers, must create insubordination and 
mutiny in the army, and ultimately bring down the vengeance and indignation 
of the soldiers upon the Convention, and establish a military tyranny. Here, 
again, has ordinary speculation been foiled. The most victorious and popular 
generals have been arrested at the head of their troops ; a commissioner from 
the Convention tells the armed line that it is his will : and, incredible as it 
may appear, there has scarcely been a single instance, countless almost as the 
number of their troops is, and compulsory as is the mode by which many of 
those numbers are gained — there scarcely has been a single instance of a 
military revolt against any of their decrees. All argument, therefore,* that 
armies must in their nature disdain the control of such an assembly, must, 
however reluctantly, be given up, and to that fallacious expectation we can 
look no more. 

" But the means even of suj)porting these armies, we were told, could not 
continue through half the campaign. Arms, ammunition, clothing, money, 
bread, all would speedily fail. The prediction, unfortunately, has failed in 
every particular. But, if our negative resources and our hopes of co-opera- 
tion in France have all disappointed us, I presume we shall find a full com- 
pensation in the increased strength and spirit of the grand alliance. Let us 
see what was the state of the allies when we entered into the confederacy. 
The force of Austria unbroken, though compelled to abandon Brabant ; and 
the power of the veteran troops of Prussia absolutely untried, though the 
seasons and disease'^' had induced them to retire from Champagne. What is 
their state now ? Defeat has thinned their ranks, and disgrace has broken 
their spirit. They have been driven across the Rhine by French recruits, 
like sheep before a lion's whelp ; and that, not from the mishap of a single 
great action lost, but after a succession of bloody contests of unprecedented 
fury and obstinacy. Where, now, is the scientific confidence with which we 
were taught to regard the efforts of discipline and experience, when opposed 
to an untrained multitude and unpractised generals .^ The jargon of pro- 
fessional pedantry is mute, and the plain sense of man is left to its own 
course. But have the efforts of our other allies made amends for the mis- 

* The causes assigned for the retreat of the allied armies under the Duke of Bruns- 
■wiuk and the King of Prussia (see note, p. 178). 



KICHARD BKINSLEY SHERIDAN. 181 

fortunes of these two principals in the confederacy ? Have the valour and 
activity of the Dutch, by land and sea, exceeded our expectations r Has the 
Portuguese squadron lessened the extent, and lightened the expense, of our 
naval exertions ? Have the Indian states, whom we have bribed or bullied 
into our cause, made any very sensible impression upon the common enemy ? 
Has our great ally, the Empress of Russia, hitherto contributed anything to 
the common cause, except her praises and her prayers ? Are all, or any of 
them, in better spirits to act, or fuller of resource to act effectually, than 
they were at the commencement of the last campaign ? But, let me throw 
all these considerations aside — every one of which, however, would singly 
outweigh the whole of the advantages placed in the opposite scale as gained 
by the allies ; and, let me ask, is it nothing that the great and momentous 
experiment has been made, and that a single nation, roused by a new and 
animating energy, and defending what they conceive to be their liberty, has 
proved itself to be a match for the enmity and the arms of the world ? ^ Is 
the pride which success in such a conflict has given to the individual heart 
of every man who has shared in it, to be estimated as nothing ? Are the 
triumphs and rewards which the politic prodigality of their government 
heaps on the meanest of their ranks who suffer or distinguish themselves in 
their battles, fruitless, and of no effect ? Or, finally, are we to hold as a 
matter of slight consideration, the daring and enthusiastic spirit, solicitous of 
danger and fearless of death, which, gradually kindled by all these circum- 
stances, has now spread, with electrical rapidity, among such a race of 
people, so placed, so provided, and so provoked ? Be he who he may that 
has reflected on all these circumstances, either singly or in the aggregate, 
and shall still say that the allies are at this moment nearer the attainment of 
their professed object than at the commencement of the last campaign — I say, 
that man's mind is either clouded by passion, corrupted by interest, or that 
his intellects were never properly framed. 

" The noble lord, however, though not inclined to overrate the enemy, 
seems to have been aware that he might be driven to admit the magnitude 
of their exertions, and that it would be diflicult to deny the efficacy of them. 
But, that we may not be dispirited, he has a solution ready for all this — 
both their exertions and their success are forced and unnatural. Another 
honourable gentleman, indeed, has told us, that if we had had only the real 
resources and the real spirit of France to contend with, Ave should have con- 
quered them long ago. It may be so ; but the worst of it is, they will not 

* At the commencement of the campaign of 1793, France had to contend with 
55,000 Austro- Sardinians from the Alps, 50,000 Spaniards from the Pyrenees, 
66,000 Austrians or Imperialists, reinforced by 38,000 Anglo-Batavians. On the Lower 
Rhine and in Belgium, 33,000 Austrians between the Meuse and the Moselle, and 
112,000 Russians, Austrians, Prussians, and Imperialists, of the Middle and Upper 
Rhine. To make head against these formidable enemies, the Convention ordered a 
levy of 300,000 troops, and, at the same time, established a Committee of Public 
Safety, with dictatorial power over persons and property.— ZTzt^Ae^. 



182 THE MODERN ORATOK. 

suffer us to prescribe to them the sort of spirit and the kind of resources we 
should choose to contend with. This may be very unhandsome ; but there 
is no remedy for it. ' They have, it is true, a great force,' says the noble 
lord, ' but it has not a sound foundation. They have a full public treasury, 
but their prosperity is unsound. The people obey the government, but the 
ground of theii' submission is unsound.' In short, he takes great pains to 
prove to us, that they ought not, in reason or nature, to make the stand they 
have hitherto maintained ; and that they have no right to beat their enemies 
in the manner which they have. Their government, he undertakes to de- 
monstrate, is not calculated to produce any such effects. It reminds me of 
the story of a tradesman who had a very admirable time-piece, made by a 
person who had never learned the business, and neither knew it mechani- 
cally nor scientifically. A neighbouring clockmaker, exasperated at this 
intrusion of natural genius, took great pains to convince the owner that he 
ought to turn his clock out of doors. It was in vain that the man assured 
him that it went and struck truly ; that he wound it up like other clocks ; 
and that it told him the hour of the day precisely. The artist replied, ' that 
all this might be very true, but that he could demonstrate that it had no 
right to go like other clocks, for it was not made upon sound principles.' 
The contest ended in his cajoling the poor man to part with his time-piece, 
and to buy from him, at three times the cost, a clock that did not answer 
half as well. I wish the noble lord would attempt to make a similar im- 
pression upon the French, and could prevail upon them to listen to him. I 
wish he could convince them, that this revolutionary movement of theirs, 
which, hov/ever unskilfully and unmethodically put together, appears so 
strangely to answer their purpose, is an unworthy jumble of ignorance and 
chance ; and that they would be much better off if they would take a regular 
constitution of his choosing. If he could effect this, I should think his rhe- 
toric well employed, and our chance of succeeding against them infinitely 
increased; otherwise his arguments and demonstrations on the subject here, 
are the idlest waste of breath possible. Experience and facts contradict 
him, and we smart under them. 

" In corroboration of his general position, the noble lord next details to 
us the manner in which they have either neglected or oppressed their com- 
merce. I have no doubt but that all he has stated on this subject is true, 
and that they have done it possibly upon system. I should not be surprised 
to hear that some distinguished senator of that country, with a mind at once 
heated and contracted by brooding over one topic of alarm, had started up in 
the Convention, and exclaimed, ' Perish our commerce, live our constitution ;' 
neither should I be surprised to learn that the mass of the people, bowing to 
his authority, or worked on by fictitious alarms and fabricated rumours of 
plots, seditions, and insurrections, should have improved upon this patriotic 
exhortation, and, agreeing that their constitution was certainly to be pre- 
ferred to their commerce, should have conceived that they could not tho- 
roughly show the fervour of their zeal for the former, so well as by an unne- 



mCHAKD BBINSLEY SHERIDAlT. 183 

cessary sacrifice of the latter. Whether the hint of this notable axiom was 
taken from the expressions of any enlightened member of our own com- 
mercial senate, or whether it was imported into this House from France, is 
what I cannot take upon me to decide. The only result worth our considera- 
tion is, that however their neglect of commerce may have abridged them of 
the luxuries, and even comforts of life, it has not hitherto curtailed them in 
the means of military preparations, or slackened the sinews of war. 

" The next proof of the unsoundness of their condition is to be looked for 
in the enormous taxes and contributions levied upon the people. The noble 
lord has summed up his laborious statements upon this subject, by informing 
us that every man of £400 a year is obliged to give up £220 of it to the 
public ; in which case, the noble lord, with great arithmetical accuracy, 
assures us that he retains but £180 for himself (the only conclusion through- 
out his speech in which I implicitly agree with him) ; and people of greater 
incomes, it seems, are called on to do the same. Now, again, I give the 
noble lord his facts, but again I accompanj'- my assent with a plain question 
— do the people submit to make these sacrifices ? He has not attempted to 
dispute their universal acquiescence. What, then, do his facts prove ? 
What, but that so devoted are the whole people of France to the cause which 
they have espoused — so determined are they to maintain the struggle in 
which they have engaged — so paramount and domineering is the enthusiastic 
spirit of liberty in their bosoms — so insignificant, comparatively, all other 
pursuits and considerations — and, finally, so bitter and active their animosity 
against the conspiring powers which surround them, that individual property 
has ceased to be regarded, even by the possessor, but as subsidiary to the 
public cause ; and the government which has demanded these unprecedented 
sacrifices yet retains its power, and does not appear to have impaired its 
popularity. 

" ' This system of exaction is tremendous,^ says the noble lord ; it is so, 
but to whom ? to those who have to fight with such a people. He ought, 
however, in fairness, to have stated also, that these sacrifices and the exac- 
tions are to expire when peace has closed the struggle in which alone they 
originate, and the end is attained for which alone they are tolerated : till 
then, unquestionably, the whole country of France is regarded as one great 
fortress in a state of siege. To tell us how little respect is paid to private 
property, commercial principle, or personal privilege in such a state, is to 
prattle childishly : prove to us that the iron hand of violence and necessity, 
which has barred the course of justice and beat down all the security of 
private right throughout that besieged land, does not at the same time assist 
the one great object which is dearest to the general heart — successful resist- 
ance to the besiegers. 

" The noble lord, however, not content with the unfairness of overlooking 
all the circumstances which imperious necessity must inevitably impose upon 
a country circumstanced as France is, thinks it fair and candid to contrast 
the proceedings of their Convention on the subject of supply and finance, 



184 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

with, the proceedings of the British minister and the British parliament. 
We, it seems, assist commerce, instead of oppressing it. We lend the credit 
of the public exchequer to our private merchants: and, for the means of 
carrying on the war, not even voluntary contributions are expected, unless it 
be in little female keepsakes for the army — of gloves, mittens, night-caps, 
and under-waistcoats. Certainly the contrast between the French means of 
supply and ours is obvious, and long may it continue so. But the noble 
lord pursues his triumph on this subject too far : not content with simply 
alluding to it, which one would have imagined would have answered all his 
purposes, he endeavours to impress it more forcibly on our minds by making 
a regular speech for our Chancellor of the Exchequer, and exultingly de- 
manding what we should say, if his right honourable friend (Mr Pitt) were 
to come down and propose 'to the British Parliament such ways and means as 
the Minister of Finance in France is compelled to resort to. What should we 
think if he were to rise and propose that all persons who had money or pro- 
perty, in an unproductive state, should lend it without interest to the public ? 
if he were to propose that all who had saved incomes from the bounty of the 
state should refund what they had received ? What, finally, if all persons 
possessing fortunes of any size were called upon to give up the whole during 
the war, and reserve to themselves only the means of subsistence, or, at the 
utmost, £180 a year ? Upon my word. Sir, I agree with the noble lord, that 
if his right honourable friend was to come down to us with any such pro- 
position, he would not long retain his present situation. And with such a 
consequence inevitable, he not need remind us that there is no great danger of 
our Chancellor of the Exchequer making any such experiment, any more than 
of the most zealous supporters of the war, in this country, vying in their 
contributions with the abettors of republicanism in that. I can more easily 
fancy another sort of speech for our prudent minister. I can more easily 
conceive him modestly comparing himself and his own measures with the 
character and conduct of his rival, and saying, 'Do I demand of you, wealthy 
citizens, to lend your hoards to Government without interest ? On the con- 
trary, when I shall come to propose a loan, there is not a man of you to whom 
I shall not hold out at least a job in every part of the subscription, and an 
usurous profit upon every pound you devote to the necessities of your coun- 
try. Do I demand of you, my fellow-placemen and brother pensioners, that 
you should sacrifice any part of your stipends to the public exigency ? on the 
contrary, am I not daily increasing your emoluments and your numbers, in 
proportion as the country becomes unable to provide for you ? Do I require 
of you, my latest and most zealous proselytes — of you, who have come over to 
me for the special purpose of supporting the war — a war on the success of 
which you solemnly protest that the salvation of Britain, and of civil society 
itself, depend — do I require of you that you should make a temporary sacri- 
fice in the cause of human nature of the greater part of your private incomes ? 
No, gentlemen ; I scorn to take advantage of the eagerness of your zeal ; and 
to prove that I think the sincerity of your zeal and attachment to me needs 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 185 

no such test, I will make your interest co-operate with your principle ; I will 
quarter many of you on the public supply, instead of calling on you to con- 
tribute to it, and while their whole thoughts are absorbed in patriotic appre- 
hensions for their country, I will dextrously force upon others the favourite 
objects of the vanity or ambition of their lives.' 

" Sir, 1 perceive that the House feel that I have made a speech more in 
character for the right honourable gentleman than the noble lord did — that 
I have supposed him simply to describe what he has been actually doing ; 
but I am much mistaken if they do not, at the same time, think it rather 
indiscreet in the noble lord to have reminded us of such circumstances. 
Good God, Sir, that he should have thought it prudent to have forced this 
contrast upon our attention ! that he should triumphantly remind us of every 
thing that shame should have withheld, and caution would have buried in 
oblivion ! Will those who stood forth with a parade of disinterested patriot- 
ism, and vaunted of the sacrifices they had made, and the exposed situation 
they had chosen, in order the better to oppose the friends of Brissot in Eng- 
land — will they thank the noble lord for reminding us how soon these lofty 
professions dwindled into little jobbing pursuits for followers and dependants, 
as unfit to fill the offices procured for them, as the offices themselves were 
unfit to be created ? Will the train of newly-titled alarmists, of supernume- 
rary negotiators, of pensioned paymasters, agents, and commissaries, thank 
him for remarking to us how profitable their panic has been to themselves, 
and how expensive to their country ? What a contrast, indeed, do we 
exhibit .^ What ! in such an hour as this, at a moment pregnant with the 
national fate, when, pressing as the exigency may be, the hard task of 
squeezing the money from the pockets of an impoverished people, from the 
toil, the drudgery of the shivering poor, must make the most practised col- 
lector's heart ache while he tears it from them. Can it be that people of 
high rank, and professing high principles, that they or their families should 
seek to thrive on the spoils of misery, and fatten on the meals wrested from 
industrious poverty ? Can it be that this should be the case with the very 
persons who state the unprecedented peril of the country as the sole cause 
of their being found in the ministerial ranks ? The constitution is in danger, 
religion is in danger, the very existence of the nation itself is endangered ; 
all personal and party considerations ought to vanish ; the war must be sup- 
ported by every possible exertion and by every possible sacrifice ; the people 
must not murmur at their burdens, it is for their salvation — their all is at 
stake. The time is come when all honest and disinterested men should 
rally round the throne as round a standard ; — for what, ye honest and dis- 
interested men ? To receive for your own private emolument a portion of 
those very taxes which they themselves wring from the people, on the pre- 
tence of saving them from the poverty and distress which you say the enemy 
would inflict, but which you take care no enemy shall be able to aggravate. 
Oh ! shame ! shame ! is this a time for selfish intrigues and the little dirty 
traffic for lucre and emolument ? Does it suit the honour of a gentleman to 



186 THE MODEEN ORATOR. 

ask at such a moment ? Does it become the honesty of a minister to grant ? 
Is it intended to confirm the pernicious doctrine so industriously propagated 
by many, that all public men are impostors, and that every politician has his 
price? Or even where there is no principle in the bosom, why does not 
prudence hint to the mercenary and the vain to abstain a while, at least, and 
wait the fitting of the times ? Improvident impatience ! Nay, even from those 
who seem to have no direct object of ofiice or profit, what is the language 
which their actions speak ? ' The throne is in danger ! we will support the 
throne ; but let us share the smiles of royalty.' ' The order of nobility is in 
danger ! I will fight for nobility,' says the viscount, ' but my zeal would be 
greater if I were made an earl.' ' Rouse all the marquis within me,' exclaims 
the earl, ' and the peerage never turned forth a more undaunted champion in 
its cause than I shall prove.' ' Stain my green ribbon blue,' cries out the 
illustrious knight, ' and the fountain of honour will have a fast and faithful 
servant.' What are the people to think of our sincerity ? What credit are 
they to give to our professions ? Is this system to be persevered in ? Is 
there nothing that whispers to that right honourable gentleman that the 
crisis is too big, that the times are too gigantic, to be ruled by the little 
hackneyed and everyday means of ordinary corruption ? Or are we to 
believe that he has within himself a conscious feeling, that disqualifies him 
from rebuking the ill-timed selfishness of his new allies ? Just previous, 
indeed, to the measure which bespoke the predetermination of our govern- 
ment for war, he deigned himself to accept a large sinecure place"^- — even he, 
who at the commencement of his political career lamented that he had fallen 
on times too good, too uncorrupt, to mark with effect the contrast of his own 
political disinterestedness, took to himself, at the period I mention, a great 
sinecure office, swelled by an additional pension, and both for life : the cir- 
cumstances have never been commented on in parliament, though perhaps 
there are those who do not exactly think his public service overpaid by the 
remuneration. But if the acceptance of such a boon, at such a time, is to be 
regarded by him as a pledge and contract, that he is never in future to consider 
himself entitled to an unpurchased support on the subject of this war, or to 
resist the mercenary claims of any proselyte which his arguments or his exam- 
ple may create — inauspicious, indeed, was the moment in which his own disin - 
terestedness was surprised by the bounty of his sovereign, and far more lament- 
able to his country the consequences of that gift, than advantageous to himself. 
" Can we too seriously reflect, that in the contest in Avhich we are engaged 
we have avowedly staked the being of the British empire ? This helium inter- 
nicinwn — as it was rashly named by those who ad\ised, and into which I fear 
it has been more rashly converted by those who have conducted it — is to be 
prosecuted at every risk. If we fail, we fall ; so circumstanced, the horn- 
may come in which we may be compelled to look for a loftier spirit, a firmer 

* The wardenship of the Cinque Ports, worth about £3,000 a year, which became 
vacant by the deatb of Lord Guildford, on 5th August, 1792. Mr Pitt was pressed by 
his Majesty to accept the office, in such gracious terms that it was impossible to decline. 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 187 

energy, and a more enthusiastic attachment to the frame and form of our con- 
stitution, than ever yet has been demanded by our government from the 
people governed. Let the Minister take care, if such an hour should 
come, that we do not look in vain. Let him take care that the corruptions 
of the government shall not have lost it the public heart ; that the example 
of selfishness in the few has not extinguished public spirit in the many. 
Let him not be too confident that his informers, his associations, his threats, 
his proclamations, or prosecutions, have driven from their post, or silenced 
the observations of those who honestly and lawfully watch the conduct of the 
King's servants in their stations, and of their own servants in this House, 
and who hold a corrupt collusion between them to be in itself an overthrow 
of the constitution. If we would have the people ready with one will, should 
the trying necessity arise, to risk and to sacrifice everything for the safety of 
the constitution and the independence of their country, let the high example 
come from those in high situations, and let it be as manifest as the danger, 
that no part of their subsistence has been wrung from them on a specious 
pretence, and applied, in fact, to increase the wages of corruption or swell 
the price of political apostasy. 

" But if neither public interest nor political prudence sway the mind of the 
right honourable gentleman, I wonder that a feeling of personal pride has 
not, in some measure, deterred him from the selection he has made of the 
late objects of his patronage, his favour, and his confidence. Wliat a com- 
pliment has he paid to all his former connexions and attachments ! and in 
what a light has he held out their pretensions and abilities to the world ! 
Possessing opportunity and sagacity to discern and estimate the claims of 
worth and talents, he has long been in a situation to attach to himself a 
numerous body of respectable friends, whose fortunate concurrence in his 
opinion has been both steady and uniform. Could he not find amongst them 
any persons fit for the many situations of trust and emolument which he has 
lately created, or worthy the honours which he has recently advised his for- 
giving sovereign to bestow ? No ; it seems that from this side of the House 
alone the country could be properly served, or the favours of the Crown 
duly repaid."^' 

" Was there ever, let me ask, a greater triumph than the list, I have run 
through, presents to those who yet remain on this side of the House, and 
who yet feel for the original credit of the party which these gentlemen have 
quitted ; of that coalition party which has been so long and so vehemently 
traduced, both for its principles and its origin ? Can it be that this execra- 
ble faction which, in the year 1784, was accused by the very man who then 
was, and still is minister, by all his adherents, and, through their arts even 

* Mr Sheridan here recapitulated, and remarked on a number of favours, offices, 
and appointments, all bestowed on gentlemen lately in opposition ; among these Le 
was supposed to allude to Lord Loughborough, Lord Carlisle, Lord Porchester, Lord 
Hertford, Lord Malmsbury, Lord Yarmouth, Sir Peter Burrell, Sir Gilbert Elliot, Mr 
Sylvester Douglas, Mr Anstruther, Mr John Erskine, &c. 



188 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

by their country at large, of the most rooted malignity to the constitution of 
this kingdom, of endeavouring to enslave the House of Commons, to disgrace 
the House of Lords, to make a cypher of the King, and to introduce a fourth 
estate, which was to throw the power and patronage of the whole empire 
into their hands and make their tyranny immortal — that this same party, 
who, at the time of the regency, were again accused, under the same 
authority, of being actuated by an insatiate love of office and emolument 
alone, and of basely preferring the views of their OAvn selfish and rapacious 
ambition to every sentiment of loyalty, to the first privileges of the commons, 
and even to the internal peace of the country ; can it be that this arraigned, 
proscribed, and reprobated party, so characterised and stigmatised by the 
right honourable gentleman and his followers, should have contained all the 
while within its ranks the only men who, when the trying hour of proof 
arrived, were fit to maintain the vigour of the constitution, assert the honour 
of the peerage, and prop the pillars of the throne ? Oh ! if this be so, what 
a lesson ought it to be to those who listen to the venal libels and calumnies 
of a ministerial press ! What a warning to their credulity in future, when 
they recollect that these very gentlemen, to whom principally, it seems, the 
country is indebted for the detection of all the plots, conspiracies, and insur- 
rections which so lately threatened the overthrow of the state, as well as for 
that salutary preventive against all future ills of the present war, that these 
very personages were not only never excepted in the outrageous libels which 
so long assailed the party to which they so lately belonged, but were many 
of them the marked and principal objects of their venom and malignity ! 
Trusting that such a lesson will arise from reflecting on this fact, I quit the 
subject ; adding only, that I should much regret the being supposed to im- 
pute any sinister or improper motives to the conduct of any of these gentle- 
men, or by any means to deny, that the emoluments and honours they have 
received were other than the consequence of their conversion to suj)erior 
wisdom and integrity by the present Minister, and in no respect the allure- 
ments to that conversion ; but still. Sir, I must take the freedom, to observe, 
that in order to have prevented a doubt, in these mistrustful times, arising 
in the public mind upon the subject, from the odd concurrence of circum- 
stances, and considering the pressure and magnitude of the plea, on which 
alone they have justified their separation from former and long cherished con- 
nexions, it would have been better both for their own credit, and as an example 
to the people, to have rendered it impossible even for malice to suggest any 
other inducement for the part they took, than a strong sense of public duty, 
and a clear and disinterested apprehension for the general safety. 

" His Majesty laments the burdens that are to be laid on his people ; and 
yet Ministers, lavish in courting, nay, purchasing, deserters, by the most 
shameful prostitution of the national treasure, I take it for granted, have 
been forced thus to look to the other side, because the nursery for statesmen, 
formed by the Secretary of State opposite to them, has not yet reared a suf- 
ficient number of plants for the necessary consumption ; I dare say, that 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 189 

though our Chiron ** is slow in his march, he will improve as he goes on ; 
and perhaps this year we shall be called upon for an additional sum of money 
to turn the nursery into a hot-bed. It is said, that if we were desirous of 
making peace, we have not the means. With whom do we treat ? I an- 
swer, with the men that have the power of the French government in their 
hands. I never will disdain to treat with those on whom I make war ; and, 
surely, no wise nation ought to persevere in the idle disdain of a negotiation 
with those that are a match for them in war. A right honourable gentleman 
opposite said, that what made him first think of a negotiation with America, 
was his looking at General Washington's army : he had looked at it on the 
right, on the left, on the centre, and, according to his curious phrase, he 
could not accommodate himself anywhere. The same was surely true of 
France : we had tried it on all sides ; on the south, at Toulon ; on the east, 
by the Rhine ; on the north, by Flanders ; on the west, by our spying- 
glasses, at St Malo ; and we could nowhere be accommodated. But, I see, 
notwithstanding our fatal experiment, we are doomed to go on ; the fatal 
determination is taken, and there is no rational hope that the good sense and 
spirit of this House will reverse the decree, 

"Mr Sheridan proceeded to a review of the proceedings of the campaign, to 
show that Government had not displayed a single exertion becoming the 
dignity of the nation, or calculated either to maintain the splendour of our 
name and arms, or to accomplish the object of the war. There had been 
great misconduct on the part of those who had the power of directing our 
forces. No one vigorous exertion of prudence or wisdom had been made ; 
however, Fortune, in some respects, had been favourable to us. We fortu- 
nately escaped hostilities with America : the risk, however, of such an event, 
was hereafter to be inquired into. For what purpose, he asked, was a large 
fleet kept in the Mediterranean after the capture of Toulon, while we wanted 
its assistance in other parts of the world ; whilst a French frigate rode 
triumphant along the coast of America ? And, after the engagement be- 
tween this and an English frigate, in which our gallant captain (Courtenay) 
lost his life, what must have been the feelings of the crew to find that no 
vengeance had been taken for his death ? 

" Mr Sheridan showed, that even in the points of our attack, particularly 
at Toulon, Dunkirk, &c., &c., we had seen nothing but incapacity and blun- 
der in the execution, as well as disaster in the event. These things must 
be the subject of parliamentary investigation. It was not enough that our 
precipitate retreat from Dunkirkf was hushed up and compromised between 

* Chiron was known in mythology as a centaur, who taught mankind the use of 
plants and medicinal herbs ; and was afterwards placed by Jupiter among the constel- 
lations, under the name of Sagittarius. 

t In 1793, shortly after the battle of Neerwinden, a British army, under the com- 
mand of the Duke of York, was sent out to Flanders to co-operate with the Austrians, 
under the Prince of Saxe Coburg ; and the campaign opened favourably by the capture 
of Valenciennes, and the garrison of Conde, by the combined armies. By a fatal 

o 



190 THE MODERN ORATOK. 

the Master-general of the Ordnance and Fu'st Lord of the Admiralty, be- 
cause one of them was brother to the minister. And, with respect to the 
transactions of Tonlon, without stopping to inquire whether the destruction 
of the ships was consistent with the laws of war, he would demand, by whose 
orders the constitution of 1789 was first offered to the people, and by whose 
orders that offer was broken to them ; and it must be a subject of inquiry 
how the noble Lord Hood, who had so freely taxed General O'Hara*' with not 
keeping his word, had himself broken his word to the nation, about the 
strength and resistance of the place. The execution of the plan for the 
destruction of the ships, he would prove, was mismanaged in all that de- 
pended on the part of Lord Hood ; for, at the Babel council of the combined 
armies, an offer was made to undertake the destruction of these ships, which 
appears to have been accepted ;f and yet, such an inadequate force was given 
for the purpose, as to oblige Sir Sidney Smith to leave fifteen ships of the 
line unconsumed. He reproached them also for the expedition of Earl 
Moira, which was talked of so long, as to deliver over all the unhappy royal- 
ists on the coast to massacre. The expedition of Sir Charles Grey had been 
equally ruined by protraction ; and, with respect to the whole of our naval 
campaign, it Y\^as in vain to enter into the details ; for no man could assert, 
with truth, that we had anywhere presented a formidable aspect to the 
enemy. Of the conduct of the channel fleet he would not say one word ; 
he was sure that the noble admiral J had exerted his utmost talents in the 
service, though they all knew the industrious pains that had been taken to 
throw unmerited reproach upon him. That our trade had not been pro- 



policy, it 3vas determined, in opposition to the advice of the Prince of Saxe Co- 
burg, that the allied armies should act independently of each other ; and the British 
forces, amounting to about 35,000 men, under the Duke of York, advanced to the 
attack of Dunkirk, which was then garrisoned by about 3,000 men only. The outposts 
were soon carried, and the siege regularly formed ;, but, in consequence of the delay of 
the English fleet, which was to have protected the army, the latter was dreadfully 
harassed by a destructive nre from the enemy's gun-boats, which were anchored 
so near shore as to enfilade the British encampment ; and the French government 
were able to send an army of 50,000 men, under General Houchard, to the relief of the 
town. The British forces, in the face of superior numbers, persevered in the siege for 
a fortnight ; but, after several engagements, in which they s^ufiered considerable loss,, 
they were compelled to retreat ; and withdrew, by night, on the 8th September, leaving 
fifty-two pieces of cannon, with a large quantity of ammunition, in the hands of the 
enemy. 

* The Commander-in-chief of the British forces at the siege of Toulon. He was 
taken prisoner in a sortie. 

t The Spaniards, who co- operated with the British, had undertaken to burn the 
ships in the basin, but were obliged to abandon the attempt, which was renewed by 
Sir Sydney Smith, with a party of British seamen, but failed, from the incessant voUies 
pf musketry from the shore, and the broadsides from the ships of war in the basin. 

X Lord Howe». 



RICHARD BRTNSLEY SHERIDAN. 191 

tected, the fact of the channel being now, or very lately, at the mercy of a 
few French frigates, was a most glaring proof.* 

" He thought it a duty he owed his constituents, to inquire into all these 
things, that it might appear what our objects were in pursuing the present 
war, and what were the objects of our allies. From some late transactions, 
it was very evident that our worthy allies had objects very different from 
what this country could possibly be supposed to have in view. He said, 
that he did not mean to propose any amendment ; he should be inclined to 
support, however, any amendment that went to declare that this House 
ought to treat for a peace whenever an opportunity for that purpose pre- 
sented itself." 

After Mr Sheridan had concluded, Mr Fox moved an amendment to the 
address, recommending immediate negotiations for peace, without regard to 
the form of the French government. On a division, the original address was 
carried by 277 against 59. 



Speech on moving for leave to bring in a bill to repeal an act of the last 
session of Parliament, suspending the Habeas Corpus Act, January 5, 1795. 

In the early part of the year 1794, considerable alarm was felt in this 
country from the spread of political associations, of which the avowed object 
was to obtain a reform in parliament, but which were really actuated by the 
Jacobinical principles which the French revolution was, at that time, diffusing 
throughout Europe. 

Similar associations were formed also in Scotland, openly adopting the 
French Convention as their model ; the members addressed each other as 
" citizen," formed themselves into committees of organisation, instruction, 
&;c., and dated their proceedings, in imitation of the French revolutionists, 
from the first year of the British Convention, one and indivisible. 

The two principal associations in England were, the *' Society for Constitu- 
tional Information," and the "London Corresponding Society;" the latter 
consisting, in the early part of 1794, of upwards of thirty thousand members. 
These two societies, co-operating with each other, spread their seditious 
doctrines with great rapidity throughout the country, giving a species of 
authority to their opinions and resolutions, by issuing them officially signed 
by their respective secretaries, Thomas Hardy (a shoemaker), and Daniel 

* Towards the end of the yeaa: 1793, the French fitted out a number of frigates, 
which, cruised at the entrance of the channel, in small squadrons, and inflicted serious 
injuries on our trade and shipping. At the suggestion of Sir Edward Pellew, an inde- 
pendent squadron of frigates was formed, for the purpose of checking these cruisers^ 
the general rendezvous being appointed at Falmouth ; and this, it is said, was the 
origin of our western squadrons, which became th« most popular service in the navj. — 
Hughes. 

o2 



I 



192 THE MODERN ORATOB. 

Adams (an under-clerk). By this means an immense revolutionary faction, 
numbering, after a short time, nearly half a million members, was regularly 
established, with district branches in every part of the country, and a central 
Board of Direction in London. The Government, considering the constitu- 
tion in danger from this organised system of sedition, and having before their 
eyes the baneful results of the spread of similar principles in France, deter- 
mined to crush the growing evil while yet they had the power ; and, by 
their orders, the principal members of both societies were suddenly arrested 
in May ; and, as it was considered that the papers seized at the same time, 
afforded sufficient evidence of treason, they were committed to the Tower. 
The papers having been referred for examination to a select committee of the 
House, the report was brought up on the 16th of May, when Mr Pitt moved 
for a bill to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act, which, after a strong opposition, 
passed into a law on the 23rd. A special commission was issued for the 
trial of the prisoners ; and, true bills having been found against Hardy, Home 
Tooke, Bonney, Kydd, Joyce, Wardell, Holcroft, Richter, Moore, Thelwall, 
Hodson, and Baxter, the trials began, on the 28th of October, with that of 
Thomas Hardy, who, with his fellow-prisoners, was charged with nine overt 
acts of treason. The trial lasted eight days, when a verdict of acquittal was 
returned; and, similar verdicts having been returned in the subsequent 
trials of Tooke and Thelwall, Government declined the further prosecution 
of the other prisoners. There is little doubt that, had the prisoners been 
indicted for sedition, they would have been convicted. As it was, the result 
of the prosecutions operated very beneficially, as it convinced the seditious 
that their proceedings were narrowly watched by Government. 

On the 2nd of January, 1795, Mr Sheridan gave notice of his intention to 
move to bring in a bill to repeal the act by which the Habeas Corpus Act 
had been suspended, and on the 5th of January he moved accordingly. 

" Mr Sheridan said, that in addressing the House upon a subject of the 
most important consideration, he by no means wished to mix his own 
opinions with what he should lay before them, but simply to bring forward 
what was the real state of facts. He was perfectly well aware that, in the 
present calamitous situation of the country, it might have been expected 
that he should direct attention to the war rather than to any other topic ; 
and, to bring forward another subject might appear to have a tendency to 
divert their attention from that which was the principal object of discussion. 
He was also aware that there was something risked by the motion w^hich he 
was now to submit to the House, as it probably would not meet with the 
concurrence of all those who, on the first night of the session, had expressed 
their disapprobation of the war ; and now, while an appearance of strength 
was gathering to the party in opposition of the present war, the efiect might 
be to produce a degree of public discouragement, and to diminish the hopes 
which were entertained of bringing it to a speedy conclusion. But there 
were some questions of essential and deep importance, which no ground of 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 193 

expedience, no consideration of a nature merely temporary, should induce 
him to forego. Such was the question which he should bring forward to- 
night. The opposers of the war, who had encountered so much unpopu- 
larity at its onset, would stand on the same ground on the present occasion, 
in supporting the principles which they had uniformly avowed, whatever 
they might hazard by the discussion, with respect to the appearance of the 
strength of their party. Those who had joined them in the opposition to 
war, would consider how far it was incumbent upon them to support the 
same principles. But he should affirm that the present was the very ques- 
tion which those who wished for peace were bound to support. The first 
consideration which had been held out by the Chancellor of the Exchequer 
with respect to the necessity of the war, was the internal situation of the 
country. A view of that situation was certainly in every respect the most 
important. Whether we now looked to the continuance of the war, or to 
the event of peace, it was of consequence to ascertain whether the subjects 
of this country were actuated by a loyal attachment to the King and an 
unshaken zeal for the constitution, or were under the influence of opposite 
sentiments. The right honourable gentleman (Mr Pitt) had asked. If we 
should make peace, what would be the consequence of the inundation of 
French principles into this country? He, for one, did not dread the conse- 
quence. But, the right honourable gentleman had rightly taken his ground^ 
if he supposed the people of England actuated by seditious and treasonable 
sentiments, and ready on the first opportunity to sacrifice all the blessings 
which they enjoyed from the admirable form of their constitution, and madly 
to destroy themselves. This was the point on which he was prepared to 
meet him. The question was not, whether the Habeas Corpus should remain 
suspended till February, though an honourable gentleman (Mr Dundas) 
had thought proper to declare, by anticipation, that, in the present situation 
of things, he should be of opinion, that the suspension ought to be re- 
newed;* if he (Mr Sheridan) thought that there remained no ground for 
suspending it, no consideration of the shortness of time would induce him 
to withdraw his motion ; he would say, with the father of the right honour- 
able gentleman (the Earl of Chatham), who, when he was asked whether he 
would submit to a tyranny of forty days, answered, ' No ; he would not 
consent that the people of England should be fettered and shackled even for 
an hour :' but the question now was — whether the Habeas Corpus should 
remain suspended for ever? Another consideration connected ^vith this 
motion was, whether the reverence and respect for the decision of juries, so 
intimately interwoven with the principles of the British constitution, and 
hitherto so sacredly observed, should or should not be eradicated from the 
minds of the people of England? In conducting the present discussion, he 
should argue from circumstances as they really existed. He would appeal 
to the gentlemen on the other side with respect to the situation in which this 

* An Act was passed, later in January, for its further suspension. 



194 THE MODERN ORATOR 

country was now placed, and he would ask them, whether they would not 
accept of the compromise that the sentiments, numbers, and force of the 
societies, who had been held up as dangerous to the constitution, should 
remain exactly as they were at present ? But there was no situation of 
things in which those gentlemen were not provided with an answer. If it 
was urged that the designs of those societies had been checked, they would 
ask, whether they ought to withdraw the security at the moment they had 
succeeded in repelling the danger ? If the influence of the societies was 
said to be increased, they would contend that the force which it had been 
found necessary to oppose to an inferior danger, became still more indis- 
pensable when the danger was increased. If they were called upon in a 
time of war, they would allege, that was not the proper time to judge of the 
degree of power to be granted to the executive government ; if, during the 
interval of peace, they would enlarge upon the necessity of guarding against 
the consequences of an intercourse with the daring republicans of France, 
there was no situation in which they would not be provided with some argu- 
ment for suspending this chief bulwark of the rights and liberties of English- 
men. The suspension would be justified, not merely as a guard against the 
crime of treason, but, according to the new phrase, against any disposition 
to moral guilt which might be productive of dangers. On such pretences, 
would the suspicion be justified, and the act itself never again restored? 
He would remind gentlemen of the grounds on which the suspension had 
been voted : the preamble of the act stated, that, ' Whereas a traitorous 
and detestable conspiracy has been formed for subverting the existing laws 
and constitution, and for introducing the system of anarchy and confusion 
which has so fatally prevailed in France,' &c. 

" He now came to facts. Did this traitorous, detestable conspiracy exist, 
if, indeed, it had ever existed at all ? It would be necessary to prove, not 
only that it once existed, but that the same danger still continued. Were 
they prepared to go to the length of these assertions ? He would not shrink 
from what he had said on a former occasion, that he considered Ministers as 
the sole fabricators of these plots. What he had then declared from strong 
surmise and deep suspicion, he was now enabled to repeat from the evidence 
of facts. He had, at his back, the verdicts of repeated juries, who had negatived 
the existence of any such plot. But the opinion of juries had been lately treated 
in such a manner, that he was almost afraid to quote their authority ; but he 
would remind a learned gentleman (Sir John Mitford) that for language much 
less unconstitutional than he had employed, with respect to the verdicts of 
these juries, a learned sergeant had formerly been committed to prison by the 
House of Commons. That learned gentleman had told them, that the ac- 
quittal of a jury did not declare the man innocent, it only exempted him 
from being tried again upon the same charge. He had always understood, 
that it was a maxim of the law of England, that every man was presumed 
to be innocent till he was found guilty. But, so far from this being the 
case, he was now told, that not even the acquitted of a jury established his 



RICHARD ERINSIiEY SHERIDAIST. 193 

innocence, or restored him to his former place in society. Much stress was 
laid upon the decision, of a grand jury. He did not rest much upon that, 
more especially as he understood that some degree of management had been 
employed in forming that grand jury. Letters were sent round, one of 
which he now held in his hand, dispensing with the attendance of some who 
might otherwise have sat on that grand jury ; and, so far as that went, had 
the effect of packing them. But he could not certainly regard the autho- 
rity of any grand jury as of much weight, if, after the prisoner was put 
upon his trial, by their finding a bill against him, he was still, by the 
liberal spirit of the law of England, to be considered innocent till he was 
found guilty by a verdict of his peers. An honourable gentleman (Mr 
Wyndham) had gone even further than the learned character to whom he 
had alluded ; he had thrown down the gauntlet to his right honourable 
friend (Mr Fox). How fax it was prudent or proper in that gentleman so 
to do, he would not take upon him to determine, especially when he recol- 
lected that, on a former occasion, he had declared that he would not give 
up the title of his friend till his right honourable friend had first given him 
a hint for that purpose. The neighbourhood into which the honourable 
gentleman had lately got, had, perhaps, impaired his memory. He had not 
waited for the hint; he had now renounced the title. Nor was such a hint 
to be expected from his right honourable friend, by those who knew with 
what strength of attachment he clung to all those of whom he had been 
accustomed to think favourably, and how unwilling he was to give up any 
who had once formed claims upon his friendship. Now, however, that the 
honourable gentleman had voluntarily disclaimed the connexion, he had no 
hesitation to declare that he should henceforth meet him on the ground of 
fair and avowed hostility. That honourable gentleman, next to another 
person, had been the principal instrument of bringing the country into the 
calamitous situation in which it was now placed. He trusted that he had 
abilities to extricate it from the difhcuities of that situation. At any rate, he 
knew that he had boldness to wait the responsibility which would ultimately 
attach to all the authors of the present war. Except, indeed, there was 
something in the support of the war that corrupted and degraded the human 
heart, he should have thought that the honourable gentleman would have 
been the last of all men to apply to persons acquitted by juries of their 
country, the opprobious epithet of acquitted felons. There might have 
been some ground for this epithet, if those persons had owed their 
escape to any flaw in the indictment, or to any deficiency of technical forms ; 
it might then have been urged, that they were not entitled, by the verdict of 
a jury, to a regeneration of character, and were still to be considered in the 
light in which the honourable gentleman had placed them — as men branded 
with guilt, and outcasts from society. He would not say that every man 
acquitted was therefore innocent ; there could be no rule of that sort without 
an exception ; a criminal might owe his acquittal to a flaw in the indictment, 
or a failure of the evidence. It had been stated the other night that a 
person might be charged with murder who .had only been guilty of house- 



196 THE MODEKN OBATOR. 

breaking, and, because he was not found guilty upon the first charge, was he 
therefore to be considered as a pure and honoui'able character ? But did 
the men who had lately been acquitted stand in that situation ? If there 
was any case in which the verdict of a jury went completely to establish 
the innocence of the party accused, it ought to be with respect to the charge 
of high treason. That charge, it was to be recollected, came Avith the 
highest authority, and with a degree of influence which it was difficult for 
any individual to resist. It was to be recollected, too, that, with respect to 
the crime of high treason, the country itself was both party and judge, since 
he who conspires against the life of the King, conspires at the same time 
against the peace of the country. 

" With respect to the charge of levying war, it was possible that the party 
accused might escape from the incompetency of the evidence ; but with re- 
spect to the charge of compassing and imagining the King's death, the inten- 
tion itself constituted the crime : and if the jury had in their own minds a 
conviction of the criminal intention, and there was sufficient proof of the 
overt act, they were bound to find their verdict guilty. Mr Sheridan said, he 
he would now put it, whether, in the course of the late trials, anything that 
could have been brought forward against the prisoners was omitted, from any 
Want of time or attention ? He had heard, indeed, a gentleman (the Solicitor- 
general) say, that the jury, if they had known all that he did, would have 
found their verdict differently. But he conceived that he must have been 
asleep at the time, otherwise it must be inferred that he had neglected to 
state to the jury all that he knew, and thereby shown himself disqualified 
for the place which he held — a confession which he surely would not wish to 
make to the gentlemen along with whom he sat, far less to those on the other 
side. He could not mean that anything further had since come to his 
knowledge, since he had himself admitted that the efiect of those acquittals 
went to prevent the parties from being again tried on the same charge. No 
pains had surely been spared to bring those persons to a conviction, if they 
had been really guilty. A report of that house was brought forward, con- 
taining almost everything that was afterwaa:ds brought out in evidence, and 
that was followed by the decision of the grand jury. Neither could it be 
contended, that there was any want of time : some of the persons tried were 
taken up in May ; the six months previous to their trial Avere employed in 
collecting and arranging evidence ; a task in which many respectable persons, 
urged by sense of what they had conceived to be their duty to their country, 
were induced to take an active part. Neither was there any deficiency of 
legal ability ; twelve gentlemen of the greatest professional eminence, 
whose talents were adequate to any cause, were retained on the side of the 
Crown, at an expense of upwards of £8,000, independently of the bill of the 
solicitor to the treasury.^'' 

* Mr Sheridan here read the list of the names of the counsel for the prosecution — 
Sir Jolm Scott (the Attorney-general, afterwards Lord Eldon), Sir John Mitford 
(the Solicitor-generai), Mr Anstruther, Mr Sergeant Adair, ISIr Bearcroft, Messrs 
Bower^ Law, and Garrow, King's counsel ; Mr Wood, Mr Baldwin, and Mr PercevaL 



RICHAK.D BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 197 

"The Attorney-general (continued he) assures me that he exerted his 
abilities gratuitously ; an example which, I trust, will be imitated, and for 
which I give him credit, though I cannot approve of his doctrines of high 
treason — doctrines which,if they were once to be admitted, no man could, in my 
opinion, be safe : nor yet of the detestable evidence of spies, so much resorted 
to in the conduct of the prosecution. Such an array could only, indeed, have 
been encountered by the abilities and eloquence of my honourable friend 
(Mr Erskine), who, by his conduct on that occasion, acquired the highest 
honour, but to whom all professional honour was become superfluous ; and 
therefore he may deem it fortunate that he was associated with Mr Gibbs, 
who deservedly comes in for a share of credit in the transaction. No exer- 
tion less vigorous, no abilities less splendid, would have been sufficient to 
withstand the weight of authority and of evidence with which it was attempted 
to crush and overwhelm the prisoners. But, perhaps, the gentlemen engaged 
in the prosecution will contend that they did not bring a sufficient number of 
witnesses ; that they were willing to spare the trouble of persons engaged in 
different occupations, and residing in distant parts of the country. How far 
this is the case (said Mr Sheridan) will appear by a paper from which I shall 
now read the list of the witnesses summoned in the case of Mr Joyce, who 
was never tried.* 

" There was one circumstance to be noticed : many of those men were 
kept in prison for a considerable time, till they were wanted for that purpose : 
there they were cooped up, half witnesses and half principals, till the day of 
trial ; and yet, to the men who had been placed in this situation, many of 
whom had lost their business and been hurt in their character, not the 
smallest compensation had been given ; he would not say, because they had 
failed in giving evidence which might have been favourable to the views of 
the prosecution ; some of them had been sent back to Sheffield, with £3 to 
defray their expenses. With regard to the manner in which the proceedings 
had been conducted, at least, no labour had been spared. The first speech on 
the trials took up no less a space than nine hours. Had he been in the situa- 
tion of a juryman, the very circumstance of an Attorney- general taking nine 
hours to tell him of an overt act of high treason, would have been a reason 
why he should have given as his opinion, that he could not believe it, and 
that it could not possibly be true. The whole procedure, on the part of the 
prosecution, was a piece of delicate clock-work, a sort of filigree net, too 
slight to hold a robust traitor, and yet so contrived as to let all the lesser 
cases of libel and sedition escape. The very intricacy and labour of the 
proceeding was, to his mind, the most satisfactory testimony that the case 
could not be supported on the grounds of substantial evidence and constitu- 
tional principles. If he was asked, did there not appear, from these trials, 
instances of sedition ? he had no hesitation to say, that they exhibited in- 

* Mr Sheridan here read an abstract of the list of witnesses, amounting in all to 207 
persons. 



198 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

stances of many gross and scandalous libels. He was ready to admit there 
were in the societies mischievous men, intent on mischievous purposes. 
There were others actuated by enthusiasm, whom he could not consider in 
the same light, because it was that sort of enthusiasm v/hich had actuated meni- 
of the purest minds. As to the phrases 'convention,' &c., in which they 
had affected an imitation and approbation of the proceedings of the French, 
the worst that could be said of them was, that they were contemptibly 
foolish. 

" He had attended the trials, he said, from a principle of duty. He was 
of opinion that every man who loved the constitution, and who thought that 
it was endangered by false alarms, would feel it incumbent, on such an oc- 
casion, to attend trials which he considered as originating from ministerial 
artifice ; and to watch the conduct of the crown lawyers and of the judges, 
in order to avert those calamities from the country in which, at former times, 
it had been involved, to prevent that most dreadful of all wars — a war of 
plots and conspiracies ; wars in which the purest blood had been shed by 
the most destructive of all weapons — the perjured tongues of spies and in- 
formers. That there was no real danger, appeared from the declaration of 
the Chief Justice Eyre, who, in summing up on one of the trials, stated that 
it was an ostentatious and boasting conspiracy; and that it was much in 
favour of the accused, that they had neither men, money, nor zeal, to eflfect 
the purposes with which they were charged. On the first trial one pike was 
produced, that was afterwards withdrawn from mere shame. A formidable 
instrument was talked of, to be employed against the cavalry ; it appeared, 
upon evidence, to be a tee-totum in a window at Shefiield. There was a 
camp in a back shop, an arsenal provided with nine muskets, and an exche- 
quer containing nine pounds and one bad shilling ; all to be directed against 
the whole armed force and established government of Great Britain. Mr 
Sheridan said that he, in the first instance, had shown the most obstinate 
incredulity with respect to all the rumours of a plot. He endeavoured to call 
to mind whether the present ministry had, in any former instance, availed 
themselves of a similar artifice. He recollected that in the year 1783, at the 
period when the coalition took place, they represented those who were en- 
gaged in that measure as setting up a fourth party in the state, as wishing 
to supersede the authority of the King and to destroy the constitution, and 
had actually persuaded many well-meaning people at the time to be of that 
opinion, and to regard the authors of the measure as enemies to their country, 
whose destruction was necessary for the preservation of the established 
government. He recollected, too, that the very men who had set up the 
coalition were now in the cabinet, and that the charge brought against them 
must therefore have been false, and an instance of successful deception. He 
was more confirmed in his persuasion of the trick when he looked to the 
conduct of the right honourable gentleman (Mr Pitt), who had adopted the 
policy of keeping open the door of reform that he might get himself out by 
it, and whose system it had uniformly been, on that question, to do just as 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 199 

much as might nourish hope, and yet discourage effort. He recollected that 
the Society of the Friends of the People*" had been constituted of a hundred 
persons, of whose characters it would not become him to speak, since he 
himself had the honour to be one of the number. That society had, at its 
first formation, been represented as more pernicious than any of the others ; 
they had been held out, both in that and in the other House, as men whose exist- 
ence was incompatible with the safety of the constitution. Their first institution 
had been followed by a royal proclamation, in order to secure the country from 
the infection of their principles. In what light had that society been held 
out on the late trials ? That very society had been represented as the sa- 
viours of the country, as the standards of political orthodoxy ; and it had been 
represented as the blackest aggravation of the guilt of other societies, that they 
had not suffered themselves to be guided by them ; that they had not im- 
plicitly adopted their principles, or concurred in their proceedings. This he 
could not help regarding as the second instance of successful deception. The 
proclamation afterwards issued, previous to the calling out of the militia and 
the assembling of Parliament, put into the mouth of his Majesty an expres- 
sion which was not true — namely, that there existed insurrections in the 
country. It might be urged, that at that time there was great appearance 
of danger, and that it was better to prevent the meditated mischief than to 
wait for its arrival. In such a case Ministers, too, would have done better to 
have taken the responsibility to themselves, and applied to Parliament for a 
bill of indemnity. He had, on a former occasion, taken notice of all the arts 
which were at that time employed to propagate alarm ; of the Duke of Rich- 
mond throwing himself into the Tower in the middle of the night ; of the 
mail-coach being retarded, and carrying with it the most dismal reports of the 
state of the metropolis, so that every person who arrived in a post chaise ex- 
pected to find that all London was in a flame. He had then surmised that all 
this was the effect of mere political artifice; he now found his suspicion con- 

* The society of" The Friends of the People " was one of several political societies, 
which were formed in the year 1792, for the purpose of procuring parliamentary reform. 
It numbered among its members, many members of parliament and influential persons, 
and the principles of the society were the same which Mr Pitt had himself formerly 
supported. In April, Mr Charles Grey, a member of the society, was deputed to fur- 
ther its object by moving, in his place in parliament, an inquiry into the state of the 
representation, as preliminary to reform. Mr Pitt earnestly opposed the object of Mr 
Grrey's notice of motion, candidly avowing that his opinions had changed on the sub- 
ject, and declaring that, in the then excited state of society, that was not the proper 
season for experiments which might endanger the constitution. This opposition of the 
minister was followed, on the 21st May, by a royal proclamation for the prevention of 
seditious meetings and publications, calling on the magistrates to suppress them, and 
exhorting the people to obedience to the laws. On the 26th May, an address was moved 
in the Commons in approbation and support of the proclamation (which was declared 
by Mr Pitt to have been levelled against the propagation of the seditious doctrines 
contained in Paine's *' Rights of Man"), and, although warmly opposed by Mr Grey 
and Mr Fox, was carried without a division. 



200 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

firmed by facts. During the course Of the trials, he had heard the evidence 
of the spies of the government, no part of vs^hich went to sanction the alarm 
which had been so industriously propagated. It followed, therefore, either 
that Ministers were deceived by their own spies, and had thereby shown 
themselves unfit for the situation which they held, or that they had acted 
upon an alarm which they did not feel, to answer the infamous purposes of 
their own ambition, and to delude the people into a wicked and a ruinous 
war. At the time, everybody admitted that the measures of ministry were 
extraordinary, but something, they said, must come out. Papers notoriously 
in the pay of ministers, even took upon them to mention the particulars of 
the plot, and to name the persons concerned. He had then moved for a 
committee of the House to inquire into the subject ; his motion was nega- 
tived because ministers knew that no such plot had ever existed. If a go- 
vernment wanted a plot, plots, like other commodities, would be brought to 
the market. Had his motion been adopted when it was first proposed, it 
would have then refuted the libel on the character of the people of England. 
The right honourable gentleman, in a more advanced stage of the business, 
had come forward with a motion for a secret committee. It did not become 
him to say that the members who composed that committee were not highly 
respectable : they were chosen by baUot, and therefore, no doubt, perfectly 
independent ; but it was well known that every such election by ballot was 
determined by previous agreement ; and he had himself previously read the 
names of thirteen or fourteen members who were to be in that committee ; 
and he must say, that it was a circumstance of suspicion that they resorted 
to this mode of choosing a secret committee, rather than that of naming the 
members over the table, as had been done on another important occasion. A 
report was presented to that committee, cut and dry, and by some of them, 
he would venture to say, adopted without much examination. In speaking 
of the gentlemen who composed that committee, he felt some degree of deli- 
cacy ; they were not now all here ; they were so much alarmed that they did 
not consider that house as a place of sufficient security, and had taken refuge 
in the upper house. A coronet, the reward of their seasonable apprehen- 
sions, would, they thought, be most likely to secure the head of the owner 
from future danger. While the committee were sitting upon this report, 
which had been in preparation five or six months, two notes were sent — one 
to his right hon. friend (Mr Fox), and another to him, informing them that 
something important was to take place in the House of Commons. This 
was all the intimation which was thought necessary to precede a suspension 
of the chief bulwark of the rights and liberties of Englishmen. Upon hear- 
ing only a moiety of the report from the Minister, the suspension of the 
Habeas Corpus Act was proposed. Seventeen divisions had on that occasion 
taken place on his side of the House; and he should ever regard the share 
%vhich he had taken in that measure as the most meritorious part of his par- 
liamentary conduct. In the House of Lords the business was not conducted 
so hastily; their lordships were presented with pikes, with drawings, with 



EICHARD BHINSLEY SHERIDAN. 201 

male and female screws; their noble natures were not so easily to be roused; 
it was necessary that they should be presented with some ocular demonstra- 
tion of the danger: — 

" Segnius irritant animos dimissa pet aurem, 
Quam quae sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus." 

He was almost ashamed to say, that the suspension of the Habeas Corpus 
Act was not a matter of slight or trivial consideration." 

[Mr Sheridan here quoted the opinion of Sir Edward Coke on the import- 
ance of the Habeas Corpus, which concludes " that without the enjoyment of 
this privilege we are no longer anything more than bondsmen. There re- 
mains no distinction between the freeman and the slave — the living and the 
dead." He then proceeded to quote the more recent opinions of Judge 
Blackstone, in the following extract from his chapter on the rights of persons, 
section ii. : — " Of great importance to the public is the preservation of this 
personal liberty, for if once it were left in the power of any of the highest 
magistrates to imprison arbitrarily whomever he or his officers thought pro- 
per (as in France it is daily practised by the Crown), there would soon be an 
end of all other rights and immunities. Some have thought that unjust 
attacks, even upon life or property, at [the arbitrary will of the magistrate, 
are less dangerous to the commonwealth than such as are made upon the 
personal liberty of the subject. To bereave a man of life, or by violence to 
confiscate his estate without accusation or trial, would be so gross and noto- 
rious an act of despotism, as must at once convey the alarm of tyranny through- 
out the whole kingdom ; but confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying 
him to gaol, where his sufierings are unknown or forgotten, is a less striking, 
and therefore a more dangerous, engine of arbitrary government. And yet 
sometimes, when the state is in real danger, even this may be a necessary 
measure. But the happiness of our constitution is, that it is not left to the 
executive power to determine when the danger of the state is so great as to 
render this measure expedient ; for it is the parliament only, or legislative 
power, that whenever it sees proper can authorise the Crown, by suspending 
the Habeas Corpus Act for a short and limited time, to imprison suspected per- 
sons without giving any reason for so doing, as the senate of Rome was wont 
to have recourse to a dictator, a magistrate of absolute authority, when they 
judged the republic in any imminent danger. The decree of the senate, 
which usually preceded the nomination of this magistrate, dent operam consules, 
ne quid respuhlica detrimenti capiat, was called the senatus consultuvn ultimm 
necessitatis. In like manner this experiment ought only to be tried in cases of 
extreme emergency ; and in these the nation parts with its liberty for a while, 
in order to preserve it for ever."] 

" If the position of this famous lawyer be true, if a suspension of the Habeas 
Corpus can be compared to nothing but a measure which suspends the whole 
of the constitution, it ought surely only to take place in cases of the most 
urgent and absolute necessity. He would ask whether the present was a 



202 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

case of such extreme emergency ? If any man believed that the people of 
this country were infected with treasonable principles, and disposed to over- 
turn the Government, he might then be justified in holding such an opinion ; 
but if any man believed that the characteristic feature of the English nation 
was a sober, settled, and steady attachment to the constitution, it was incum- 
bent on him to call for an immediate repeal of the act suspending the Habeas 
Corpus. Such was the opinion which had been confirmed by repeated ver- 
dicts of a jury — verdicts which went completely to do away the idea of any 
conspiracy having ever existed in the country. He, for one, would not wait 
till ministers should exercise their ingenuity in the fabrication of new plots, 
or should have time to propagate fresh alarms ; he would call upon them 
immediately to restore to the people those rights, without which they could 
neither respect themselves nor the government under which they lived. 

" I feel myself, (said Mr Sheridan) as if contending for a melancholy truth 
with Ministers, when I assure them that such is the state of the country, and 
such is the loyalty of the people, that they are firmly attached to the consti- 
tution, and disposed quietly to enjoy its blessings, without any idea of either 
attempting the person of his Majesty, or cutting the throats of one another. 
I shall hear then, not of a plot, but of the existence of a propensity to moral 
guilt, as justifying the continuance of the suspension of the Habeas Corpus. 
I will not say that there have been no instances of sedition, but I will affirm 
even that the evidence of these appears in so questionable a shape as ought 
to excite your suspicion. It is supported by a system of spies and informers — 
a system which has been carried to a greater extent under the present admin- 
istration than in any former period of the history of the country. I will not 
say that there is no government in Europe which does not stand in need of 
the assistance of spies ; but I will affirm that the government which avails 
itself of such support does not exist for the happiness of the people. It is a 
system which is calculated to engender suspicion and to beget hostility ; it 
not only destroys all confidence between man and man, but between the 
governors and the governed ; where it does not find sedition it creates it. 
It resembles in its operation the conduct of the father of all spies and in- 
formers, the devil, who introduced himself into Paradise, not only to inform 
his own pandemonium of the state of that region, but to deceive and 
betray the inhabitants. The spy, in order to avoid suspicion, is obliged 
to assume an appearance of zeal and activity ; he is the first to disseminate 
the doctrines of sedition, or to countenance the designs of violence; he 
deludes the weak by the speciousness of his arguments, and inflames the 
turbulent by the fury of his zeal. It must have made a man's heart burn to 
hear the sort of evidence brought forward by these spies on the late trials. 
A wretch of the name of Lynam said, that, in his capacity of delegate to 
one of the societies, he had incurred suspicion, had been tried by the 
other delegates, and honourably acquitted. The counsel for the prosecution 
could hear such a declaration with unblushing countenances. By what 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 203 

means had he been acquitted, but by pretences of superior zeal and more 
furious exertion? I wish the honourable gentleman who called the persons 
who had been tried acquitted felons, had been present when such witnesses 
were examined against them ; I wish he had been present when the Chief 
Baron (Macdonald) addressed Mr Thelwall, not as an acquitted felon, but 
as having obtained a verdict which was honourable to his character, and ex- 
horted him, in a tone of the utmost gentleness, to employ his talents in future 
for purposes useful to his country. The manner in which that address was 
made, was fit and becoming the character of the judge by whom it was 
delivered, as well as respectful to the person to whom it was directed. Of 
whatever indiscretion the persons who had been tried had been guilty, it 
will not be disputed by those who have attended to their case, that they 
have feeling hearts, that they are alive to every sense of indignity, and that 
they must have been deeply wounded by the opprobrious epithet applied to 
them by the honourable gentleman. I trust this is sufficient to induce him 
to make the only reparation now in his power, by the speediest recantation 
of his hasty and ill-judged expression. There was another witness of the 
name of Taylor, not an acquitted but a convicted felon, who had been tried 
for a crime into the moral demerit of which I will not enter, but which had 
been attended with the aggravation of perjury ; but sentenced only to a 
slight punishment, on account, as was alleged, of some favourable circum- 
stances in his case, though, upon my word, I could find none, except that 
he had assisted to hang his brother spy (Watts) ; yet this man was thought 
a proper character to be brought forward as an evidence in a court of justice, 
and allowed to hunt after the blood of Englishmen. If Ministry had been 
duped and deluded by their spies, ought they not to admit the deception 
that had been played upon them ? But, (said Mr Sheridan,) I can suppose 
the case of a haughty and stiff'-necked minister, who never mixed in a 
popular assembly, who had therefore no common feeling with the mass of 
the people, no knowledge of the mode in which their intercourse is con- 
ducted, who was not a month in the ranks in this House before he was 
raised to the first situation, and, though on a footing of equality with any 
other member, elevated with the idea of fancied superiority — such a minister 
can have no communication with the people of England, except through 
the medium of spies and informers ; he is unacquainted with the mode in 
which their sentiments are expressed, and cannot make allowance for the 
language of toasts and resolutions adopted in an unguarded and convivial 
hour. Such a minister, if he lose their confidence, will bribe their hate ; if 
he disgust them by arbitrary measures, he will not leave them till they are 
completely bound and shackled ; above all, he will gratify the vindictive 
resentment of apostasy by prosecuting all those who dare to espouse the 
cause which he has betrayed ; and he will not desist from the gratification of 
his malignant propensities and the prosecution of his arbitrary schemes, till 
he has buried in one grave the peace, the happiness, the glory, and the inde» 



204 THE MODERN ORATOE. 

pendence of England.^ Such a minister must be disqualified to judge of 
the real state of the country, and must be eternally the dupe of those vile 
spies whose interest it is to deceive him, as well as to betray others. In what 
country, or from what quarter of the community, are we to apprehend the 
effects of those principles of insubordination with which we have been so 
often threatened? The characteristic feature of the English nation is 
entirely different ; they testify, on every occasion, the utmost respect for 
superiority (I am sorry to use the phrase), wherever the advantages of rank 
or fortune are exercised by those who enjoy them with any tolerable decency 
or regard to the welfare of their dependants. What nobleman or gentleman 
finds in his tenants or servants, so long as he treats them with propriety and 
kindness, a hostile and envious disposition ? What merchant or great manu- 
facturer finds in those whom he employs, so long as he treats them well, a 
sullen and uncomplying temper, instead of a prompt and cheerful obedience ? 
This tendency to insubordination forms no part of the temper or character of 
the people ; the contrary disposition is even carried to an extreme. If I am 
asked whether there is any danger in the present moment, I say. Yes. But 
it is not a danger of that sort which is to be remedied by suspending the 
rights, or abridging the privileges of the people. The danger arises from a 
contempt being produced among the lower orders, of all public men and all 
public principles. 

" A circumstance occurs to me, which took place during the late trials, 
where the ' Friends of the People' were praised from the bench. When one of 
the Sheffield witnesses (Broomhead) was asked why his society declined 
communicating with the ' Friends of the People;' he answered that he would 
tell them very plainly, that they did not believe them to be honest ; that 
there were several of them members of parliament ; that they had some of 
them been in place ; and that they conceived the ins and the outs, however 
they might vary in their profession, to be. actuated by the same motives of 
interest. I, who might be as little implicated in such a charge as any man, 
felt rebuked and subdued by the answer. What is it that tends to produce 
this contempt of public men ? The conduct of those who ought to hold out 
an example of public principle. I heard an honourable gentleman (Mr 
Wyndham) the other day — and on this subject I will pursue him with pro- 
fessed and unabating hostility — complain of the indifference and languor 
of the country in the present contest, and call upon them to greater 

* Mr Pitt, without passing through any subordinate offices, became Chancellor of 
the Exchequer and leader of the House of Commons, at the early age of twenty-three. 
Although Sheridan always reprobated Pitt as a minister, he acknowledged the 
highest respect for him as a man. In 1802, he thus spoke of him : •♦ No man admires 
his splendid talents more than I do. If ever there was a man formed and fitted by nature, 
to benefit his country and to give it lustre, he is such a man. He has no low, 
little, mean, petty vices. He has too much good sense, taste, and talent, to set his 
mind upon ribands, stars, titles, and other appendages, and idols of rank. He is of a 
nature not at all suited to be the creature or tool of any court.'' 



UICHARD BRINSLEY SHE-RIDAN. 205 

greater displays of vigour and exertion, while at the same time he affirmed, 
that no man in the country felt any distress from the pressure and calamities 
of war. Will he say this to the starving manufacturers of Norwich ? Will 
he say it to the slaving poor of the metropolis, obliged to purchase a loaf at 
nine-pence, and unable to supply themselves with coals at this inclement 
season, from the enormous price of that necessary article ? Will he say it 
to the landholders, whose property, since the commencement of the v/ar, has 
been reduced half its value ? What can this language of the honourable 
gentleman mean, except he means to drive the great body of the people to 
desperation ? When I h€ard the honourable gentleman call upon the coun- 
try for increased exertions, I concluded that he would have proposed to 
throw in his salary to the aid of the public fund, and to live contented on 
his own splendid income. I supposed he would have persuaded his right 
honourable friend (Mr Pitt) to relinquish the revenue which he derives from 
the Cinque Ports, and to live on the £6000 a year attached to his other 
appointment ; that he would have persuaded another honourable gentleman 
(Mr Dundas) to give up one of his numerous salaries ; ^' and a noble mar- 
quis, in another House, to give up some of the emolument which he derives 
from the tellership of the Exchequer, which would this year amount to 
£15,000. As the noble marquis, on a former occasion, professed himself 
ready to abandon part of those emoluments, and take the office at a more 
moderate salary, he had now an excellent opportunity to prove the sincerity 
of his declaration. I expected all this, and that they would not have failed 
to assist their own arguments by the operation of their generosity. The 
honourable gentleman shakes his head, as if I had said something which I 
did not mean, or Avould not stand by. When formerly, in conjunction with 
him and others, I attacked the corruption of Ministers, I thought I was 
speaking the sentiments of men who were sincere in recommending the doc- 
trine of public economy, and not persons secretly bargaining for a share of 
the wages of corruption. Little did I think that the opposition which they 
then expressed, was only an envious admiration of the honours and emolu- 
ments of Ministers, and an impatient desire of participation ; little did I con- 
■ceive that the first act of a noble person (Duke of Portland) would have been 
to arrest from a gallant man a token of honour, which he had merited by his 
public services ; a man, to whom, indeed, that token could add no honour, 
but who might wish to introduce into his own profession such a badge of 
distinction. In Ireland, ever since the period of their arrangement, they 
have experienced the utmost difficulty and embarrassment, from a dispute 
which has subsisted about patronage, and which has at last been compro- 
mised ; how far honourably, I will leave to those who are best acquainted 
with the transactions to determine. In the present war, Ministers have been 
obliged to have recourse to allies both at home and abroad ; both have been 

* Mr Dundas was Treasurer of the Navy, and Secretary of State for the War De- 
partment. 

p 



206 THE MODERN ORATOE. 

procured by the same means — bargain and subsidy. Among the members of 
the present cabinet there subsists a sort of Dutch amity, and they hate one 
another more cordially then even they do us who are in opposition to their 
measures. The question is, Has the Duke of Portland a majority in the 
cabinet } No ; Mr Pitt constrains him by an additional vote. It was 
curious to observe the changes which had lately taken place ; from a lord 
privy seal, to be first lord of the Admiralty, and vice versa ; from president 
of the council, to be Lord-lieutenant of Ireland ; and from the Lord-lieute- 
nant of Ireland, to be Master of the Horse. A noble earl (Mansfield) came 
at first into the cabinet without any emolument ; I was at first disposed to 
give him credit for his disinterestedness ; but whether it was conceived by 
Ms colleagues to be a foolish thing, or that it might operate as a bad ex- 
ample, he was soon induced to accept the situation of president of the 
council, with a large salary. While all Europe is in a flame, they seem to 
be engaged at boys' play; to be scrambling for places and pensions, for 
ribands and titles, and amusing themselves with puss in the comer in the 
cabinet room. When such is the picture of the conduct of public men, I 
am not surprised at the declaration of the witness from Sheffield, that he 
gives no man of that description credit for being honest. Willingly would I 
throw a veil over such transactions for the sake of the country, were it pos- 
sible either to conceal their existence, or to extenuate their disgrace. Mr 
Sheridan said that he had now stated almost all that he had to say : there 
was nothing, in his mind, which would be more calculated to remove the 
danger of sedition than to abandon the system of corruption which now pre- 
vailed. To reform the conduct of government, and to correct abuses, would 
be the surest way to remedy discontent and render a further suspension of 
the Habeas Corpus unnecessary. He proceeded to state that many of the 
acts of the societies, which had excited so m.uch alarm, were only imitations 
of what had been done by the societies in 1780.^' If the minister at that 
time had been disposed to prosecute, he might have made out a much better 
ease of treason than had been brought forward by the present ministers. 
Was the memorable expression of the illustrious Earl of Chatham forgotten, 
* that he rejoiced that America had resisted ?' f Could none of the mem- 
bers recollect the strong language adopted by Mr Burke on the same occa- 
sion ; and the sentiments that had been avowed in the House by the 
opposers of that war, ' that they wept over the fall of Montgomery, | and 
did not exult in the desertion of Arnold ? ' § He produced a paper with the 

* Mr Sheridan alluded to the riots in London, caused by Lord George Gordon, at 
the head of the Protestant Association, a society whose object was to prevent a repeal 
of the penal laws against Roman Catholics. 

t See Lord Chatham's Speeches, page 27. 

X General Montgomery, one of the American commanders, shot at the unsuccessful 
siege of Quebec, 1775. 

§ General Arnold, who, after having been promoted by Congress, for his valour and 
-ability, deserted to the English in 1780, and became a brigadier-general in the British 
service. 



EICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 207 

inscription, * Lenox, the friend to equality,' which, had the then Ministers 
been disposed to prosecute, contained matter more inflammatory than any 
paper that had been brought forward on the late trials. If approbation of 
the progress of the enemy, implied by toasts and resolutions ; if an unqua- 
lified claim of universal representations ; if disrespectful expressions, such 
as * What care I for the King's birth-day?' were to be construed as 
treasonable matter, all these would be found to apply to the associations in 
1780, in a greater degree than to the present societies. Nay, a convention 
of the same nature with that which these societies had been charged as 
having conspired to hold, was then actually held. These men only trod in 
the same path in which they had seen others go before them, not only 
without impeachment but without reproach.* If (said Mr Sheridan) we 
make a boast of equal laws, if these men are to be considered as guilty of 
high treason, let us have some retrospective hanging, and, whatever in that 
case may happen to me, his Majesty will at least derive some benefit, since 
he will thereby get rid of a majority of his present cabinet. Mr Sheridan 
said, that when he recollected that his speaking and writing might have been 
instrumental in inducing those men to espouse the views which they had 
adopted, he could not separate his own cause from theirs, and he did not 
know what other men's consciences were made of, who could prosecute, and 
even bring to condign punishment and infamy, persons who had been guilty 
of no other crime than having taken up the same side of the question of 
which they themselves had formerly been the advocates and supporters. He 
then reprobated the arguments drawn from the difierences of times, and the 
necessity of terrible examples — an argument to be found in everybody's 
mouth, and which he contended to be false and mischievous. It was re- 
echoed from every quarter, and by every description of persons in office, from 
the prime minister to the exciseman — ' Look to the example of France.' 
The implication was a libel upon the character of Great Britain. The cha». 
racters of nations arose not from the difference of soil and climate, but 
from the invariable and eternal decrees of Providence. Government was the 
school and seminary of the soul." 

He proceeded to press the distinction in the characters and minds of the 
mass of the inhabitants of different countries, according to their different 
governments. " I will not, therefore," said Mr Sheridan, " admit the infer- 
ence or the argument, that, because a people, bred under a proud, insolent, 
and grinding despotism, maddened by the recollection of former injuries, and 
made savage by the observation of former cruelties ; a people, in whose 
minds no sincere respect for property or law ever could have existed, because 
property had never been secured to them, and law had never protected them; 

* Lord Greorge Gordon, the author of the riots, was tried for high treason, and 
acquitted, as his oifence did not appear to amount to treason ; had he been tried for 
high crimes and misdemeanors, he without doubt would have been convicted. A 
special commission was issued for the trial of a great number of the rioters, many -of 
whom were found guilty and punished accordingly. 

p 2 



208 THE MODERK OUA^OK. 

a people separated and divided into classes by the strongest and harshest 
lines of distinction, generating envy and smothered malice in the lower ranks, 
and pride and insolence in the higher. That the actions of such a people, at 
any time, much less in the hour of frenzy and of fury, provoked and goaded 
hy the arms and menaces of the surrounding despots that assailed them, 
should furnish an inference or ground on which ta estimate' the temper, cha- 
racter, or feelings of the people of Great Britain ; of a people, who, though 
sensible of many abuses which disfigure the constitution, were yet not insen- 
sible to its many and invaluable blessings ; a people who reverenced the 
laws of their coimtry because those laws shielded and protected all alike ; a 
people, among whom all that was advantageous in private acquisition, all 
that was honourable in public ambition, was equally open to the efforts, the 
industry, and the abilities of all ; among whom progress, and rise in society 
and public estimation, was one ascending slope, as it were, without a break 
or landing-place ; among whom no sullen line of demarcation separated and 
cut off the several orders from each other, but all was one blended tint, from 
the deepest shade that veiled the meanest occupation of laborious industry, 
to the brightest hue that glittered in the luxurious pageantry of title, wealth, 
and power : he would not, therefore, look to the example of France ; for, 
between the feelings, the tempers, and social disposition towards each other, 
much less towards the governments which they obeyed, of nations so differ- 
ently constituted and of such different habits, he would assert, that no com- 
parison could be made which reason and philosophy ought not to spurn at 
with contempt and indignation. If pressed further for an illustration on 
this subject, he would ask, what answer would those gentlemen give, if a 
person affectedly or sincerely anxious for the preservation of British liberty, 
were to say, ' Britons, abridge the power of your monarch, restrain the exer- 
cise of his just prerogative, withhold all power and resources from his govern- 
ment, or even send him to his electorate, from whence your voice exalted 
him — for mark what has been doing on the continent ! LooTi to the example 
of kings ! ! Kings, believe me, are the same in nature and temper every- 
where ; trust yours no longer: — see how that shameless and perfidious 
despot of Prussia, that trickster and tyrant, has violated every principle of 
truth, honour, and humanity, in his murderous, though impotent, attempt at 
plunder and robbery in Poland \ He, who had encouraged and even gua- 
ranteed to them their constitution : ^' — see him, with a scandalous profana- 
tion of the resources which he had wrung by fraud from the credulity of 
Great Britain, trampling on the independence he was pledged to maintain, 
and seizing for himself the countries he had sworn to protect. Mark the 

* After the first partition of Poland, and the promulgation of the new constitution, 
by the Diet in 1788, the King of Prussia expressed his entire approval of the changes 
adopted, and with the basest perfidy declared, that he had nothing nearer his heart than 
the interests of Poland and the preservation of a good understanding with it ; while 
at the same time he entered into a fresh alliance with Catherine, Empress of Bussia,. 
for making a second partition, which was effected in 179-1. 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 209 

still more sanguinary efforts of the despot of Russia, faithless not to us 
only and the cause of Europe, as it is called, but craftily outwitting her per- 
jured coadjutor, profiting by his disgrace, and grasping to herself the victim 
which had been destined to glut their joint rapacity. See her thanking her 
favourite General Suwarrow,* and, still more impious, thanking Heaven for 
the opportunity ; thanking him for the most iniquitous act of cruelty the 
bloody page of history recorded — the murderous scene at Prague, where, not 
in the heat and fury of action, not in the first impatience of revenge, but 
after a cold, deliberate pause of ten hours, with temperate barbarity, he 
ordered, a considei'ate, methodical massacre of 10,000 women and children. 
These are the actions of monarchs ! Look to the example of Idngs ! ! ' What 
those gentlemen would reply to such an argument or exhortation I know 
not. My answer should be, I treat your inference and comparison with the 
same abhorrence and indignation with which I turn from those who would 
libel and traduce the character and principles of the people of England ; and 
upon the same grounds and principles, I will not look to the example of the 
princes you point out, and justly, perhaps, stigmatise, in order to measure 
my allegiance and opinion of the King of Great Britain. I am not to be 
misled by names ; I regard not that the four letters are the same which form 
the title of the despot of Brandenburg, and of the first magistrate of this free 
country. I will not look to the principles or practice of a man born and 
bred in flattery, falsehood, and faithlessness — of a prince accustomed to look 
to fear only for obedience, and to arms only for security ; of one used to 
consider his people as his property, their lives and limbs his traffic ; of one 
instructed to make his will the law, and the law his tool; of one, finally, 
whose heart must be perverted and corrupted by that which ever did and 
ever will deprave and corrupt the human heart — the possession of despotic 
power. I will not borrow from such an example a rule to estimate the prin- 
ciples, acts, or wishes of a monarch, where it must be as palpably his wish as 
his interest to reign in the hearts of his people ; of a prince, whom a love of 
liberty alone in the people exalted to his present situation ; and who must, 
therefore, regard and cherish that love of liberty in his subjects, as the real 
body-guard of his person ; of a king, who, not seated on a solitary emi- 
nence of power, sees in the co-existing branches of the legislature his 
equals — in the law his superior ; who, taught by the awful examples of our 
history, knows he is accountable for the sacred trust reposed in him, and, 

* In the last struggle of the Poles for independence, under the famous Kosciusko, 
Suwarrow, who had acquired a high reputation in the Turkish war, acted as the 
General- in- chief of the Russian forces. Kosciusko was defeated and taken prisoner, 
and Suwarrow marched to take possession of the capital. The remains of the Polish 
army, which were collected at Praga, on the Vistula, opposite to Warsaw, made but a 
feeble resistance to the veteran army of the Russians, and, the capital having been 
stormed, its inhabitants were plundered and massacred without quarter. In the par- 
tition which followed, Austria obtained Cracow and the country between the Pihtsa, 
the Vistula, and the Bug ; to Prussia was assigned Warsaw, and the country as far as 
the Nieman ; the rest formed the share of Russia. 



210 THE MODEKN OBATOE. 

o^ving his title to the people's choice, feels the true security of his throne to 
be the people's love. Thus would I reply, and thus would I remain — though 
disclaiming the servile cant of adulation, with sentiments of unabated attach- 
ment to the person of our present monarch, and with unshaken adherence to 
the principle of hereditary government in this country, while limited, and 
directed to the objects for which that and all other power on earth is 
created — the benefit and happiness of the people who confer the trust. 

" Mr Sheridan concluded, that, if he were to look to the prodigality, the 
corruption, the detestable system of spies and informers, the insolence of 
the higher and the oppression of the lower orders, which had distinguished 
the old government of France, and which, he contended, had produced all 
the evils of the present system, he would thence be taught to avoid intro- 
ducing into this country a system of terror and corruption, and to give back 
to the people those rights and privileges which riveted their afiection and 
secured their obedience, and placed the order and stability of the govern- 
ment upon their best foundation, the protection and happiness of the subject. 
The object of his present motion went only to bring back that which ought 
never to have been taken away. He should, therefore, now move for leave 
to bring in a bill to repeal an Act passed in the last session of parliament, 
empowering his Majesty to secure and detain such persons as shall be 
suspected of conspiring against his person and government." 

On a division, the motion was lost by 185 to 41. 



Speech in opposition to the third reading of Mr Pitt's bill for increasing 
the Assessed Taxes-— 4th January, 1798. 

On the opening of Parliament in November, 1797, Mr Pitt stated the 
supplies for the year ensuing to be estimated at £25,000,000, and brought 
forward a new financial plan, for raising a considerable portion of that sum 
within the year, without adding to the permanent debt of the country. The 
substance of his proposition was, to treble the assessed taxes ; but with the 
proviso, that no person should be assessed higher than a tenth of his income, 
which was to be taken at the amount declared by individuals, subject to be 
checked by surveyors, in case of unfair returns. 

" Sir, — The honourable gentleman (Mr Martin) who has just sat down, has 
called for more explanations of what other gentlemen have advanced than 
I ever recollect to have heard in this house. In candour I must conclude 
that the honourable gentleman really wanted information upon the points 
which he afiected not to understand ; and that where he did misunderstand 
or mistake the arguments of others, he did not mean to be guilty of wilful 
misrepresentation. The speech of the honourable gentleman, however, 
called upon so many members to explain the points upon which he has 
commented, that I have been under the necessity to give way to them. I 
now rise, thus early in the debate, and I feel some satisfaction in reflecting 



TTT 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN, 211 

that the adjournment which has taken place gives me an opportunity of pre- 
senting myself Avhen the attention of the House was awake, because, had I 
proceeded last night, I might have found the honourable gentleman (Mr Martin) 
wearied and exhausted, and disposed, perhaps, to give me a hint to sit down 
before I had finished my argument. I have listened to the speech of the 
honourable gentleman (Mr Perceval); a speech of great talent, great inge- 
nuity, and considerable vehemence. The sentiments which it contains 
seemed to be so much in unison with the feelings of those around him, that 
I flatter myself that the approbation with which it has been received may 
contribute to shorten the debate, and to supersede the necessity of making 
long speeches from that side of the House. It was remarkable, however, 
that the honourable gentleman, amidst a variety of matter on which he 
descanted, cautiously abstained from touching upon the real question before 
the House. Many of the topics which he brought forward, I am ready to 
admit, were fairly introduced, and perfectly regular in parliamentary debate. 
While 1 admit the right of the honourable gentleman to argue the subject 
in his own way, it perhaps might have been better had he altogether ab- 
stained from certain points ; or, to use a phrase which has become very 
fashionable since the introduction of the present bill, had he modified his 
attack upon my right honourable friend.^' The honourable gentleman never 
attempted to show that the right honourable gentleman f below him was the 
fittest person to administer the afiairs of this country — that he was the ablest 
minister for the conduct of war, and the most proper person to negotiate 
with success. The whole scope of his speech was merely to show that the 
right honourable gentleman was placed in the revenue to bar my right 
honom-able friend, as if it necessarily followed that he alone could be the 
successor of the present minister. Supposing, as he did, for the sake of 
argument, that my right honourable friend was qualified to negotiate with a 
better prospect of success than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he said it 
would be incumbent upon the House, as a preliminary step, to treat with 
their negotiator. He thought that my right honour-able friend could not 
be invested with that character without danger to the country. What were 
the grounds upon which this assertion was founded ? He accuses my right 
honourable friend of having considered men as innocent who were acquitted 
by the verdict of a jury, and having argued, upon this acquittal, that there 
was no proof of the conspiracy of which they were accused. ;|: He accuses 
him of having said, on the discussion of the treason and sedition bills, that 
resistance would be a question, not of morality, but of prudence. Above 
all, he founded his apprehension upon words which he supposes to have 
been lately used by my right honourable friend, that he would take no share 
in any administration without a total, fundamental, and radical reform. The 
honourable gentleman has made a very pretty play upon these words. I 
cannot but suspect, however, that the honourable gentleman, who has been 

* Mr Fox. t Mr Pitt. j See page 192. 



212 IHE MODERN ORATOK. 

celebrated for epigram, has put these words into the mouth of my right 
honourable friend, merely for the sake of the point with which he has con- 
trasted them. He finds out that the reform so broadly stated will not he a 
total reform ; that the fundamental reform will not touch the foundation ; 
and that the radical reform will be confined to the branches without descend- 
ing to the root ? This epigrammatic wit, however, is founded entirely upon 
the words which the honourable gentleman has purposely added to the ex- 
pression to which he alludes. They were not used by my right honourable 
friend. The expression he employed, and which has become more conspicu- 
ous from its being made the subject of particular thanks in certain resolutions 
lately advertised, was, that he would take no share in any administration, 
without a radical reform in the representation, and of the abuses of the 
present system. Such was the expression of my right honourable friend, 
and the words which the honourable gentleman has added into the bargain 
were merely introduced to point a sentence, and to enliven his speech. The 
honourable gentleman considers the conduct of those whom he represents 
as unfit successors to the present men in power, as calculated to encourage 
the Jacobins, and to forward the views of the French. These certainly are 
formidable evils, but the honourable gentleman quickly discovers some 
ground of consolation amidst the dangers which he apprehends. He thinks 
that my right honourable friend would retract the declarations he has made^ 
that he would renounce the principles he has avowed, and that, in office, he 
would not act upon the professions he held before he came into power. On 
what part of the conduct of my right honourable friend he founds this asser- 
tion, I am at a loss to conjecture. What are the professions, made when out 
of office, which in power he has belied ? True it is, that such conduct is not 
unusual with statesmen. True it is, that there have been men who have for- 
feited such pledges ; who have said that there could be no salvation for this 
country without a radical reform (for this, beyond dispute, was the expres- 
sion of the right honourable gentleman opposite) ;^ who have maintained 
that no honest man could undertake the administration of this country 
without that reform ; and have, like him, abandoned the words and principles 
they once held, and resisted, by all the power of corruption, the cause which 
they laboured to promote. With the right honourable gentleman, the type 
and image of apostasy before his eyes, it perhaps was natural that the 
honourable gentleman should consider professions as made only to be re- 
nounced. When he reflected that the present minister had not only aban- 
doned the principles he professed, and violated the faith he pledged to the 
public, but had become the most zealous persecutor of those whom he had 
convinced by his arguments and influenced by his example, there was no 
wonder that he should distrust professions, and ascribe but little sincerity to 
the declarations of statesmen. The honourable gentleman apprehends that 

* In 1782, Mr Pitt had been strenuovis for reform himself, moving for a committee 
" to inquire into the state of the representation of the people in parliament, and to 
report to the House their sentiments thereon." 



Q.- 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 213 

many dreadful consequences would ensue, were this radical reform to be car- 
ried into effect. What that radical change of system is to be, the honour- 
able gentleman professes to be ignorant. For my own part I can say, that 
no man can be more decidedly hostile than I am, to any change of system 
that could lead to a change of the ancient established constitution of this 
government. But I will tell the honourable gentleman what has been the 
consequence of that change of system which has been introduced into the 
constitution of this country. If any minister of brilliant talents, of splendid 
endo^vments, but actuated by principles of the most boundless and colossal 
am.bition, raised up by influence, supported by corruption, should set at 
nought the rules of Parliament, violate the act of appropriation, raise money 
without the authority of this house, and send it out of the country without 
the consent of parliament,* if he has transgressed the constitution with im- 
punity, if his criminality is suffered to pass even without rebuke — this is 
nothing less than a radical change of system. If by his folly and incapacity 
he has raised discontents — if, by the burdens which he has imposed, to sup- 
port an impolitic and ruinous system, he has alienated the minds of the 
people from his government — if, to suppress the opposition which such a 
state of things must naturally produce, he has had recourse to military force, 
and covered the country with barracks, in defiance of the constitution — such 
practices constitute a radical change of system. If he has distinguished his 
administration by severity unknoAvn to the laws of this country — if he has 
introduced new codes of treason and sedition,| if he has doomed men of 
talent to the horrors of transportation, the victims of harsh and rigorous 
sentences, J if he has laboured to vilify and to libel the conduct of juries,§ 
such proceedings originate in a radical change of system. If he has used 
the royal prerogative in the creation of peers, not to reward merit, but con- 
verted the peerage into the regular price of base and servile support — if he 
has carried this abuse so far that, were the indignant, insulted spirit of this 
nation roused at length to demand justice on ihe crime of which he has been 
guilty, he would be tried in a house of peers, where the majority of the 

* £1,200,000 had been advanced to the Emperor, without the previous consent of 
parliament, although sitting at the time. 

t In consequence of the attack on his Majesty, in 1795, which was supposed to have 
resulted from the seditious meetings held at that time, and, in particular, the meetings 
of the Corresponding Society in Copenhagen Fields, the government introduced two 
bills : one in the House of Lords ** for the safety and preservation of his Majesty'^ 
person and government against treasonable and seditious attempts," and one in the 
House of Commons, " for the prevention of seditious meetings;'' both c€ which, after a 
strong opposition, were passed. 

X Mr Sheridan here alludes to the severe sentence on Messrs Muir and Palmer, who 
were tried in 1794, in Scotland, for "leasing making," or stirring up sedition; 
and, being found guilty, were condemned to fourteen years' transportation. Considerable 
doubt was entertained, whether the law warranted a severer punishuAent for their 
offence, than outlawry, without" transportation. 

§ See page 194. 



2H THE MODEBN OKATOR. 

judges were created by himself — I will tell tlie honourable gentleman that 
such a state of things must have originated in a radical change of system. 
Would it not be right, then, to pull down that fabric of corruption, to recall 
the government to its original principles, and to re-establish the constitution 
upon its true basis ? Will any set of men deny the necessity of a radical 
change of system by which these evils shall be corrected, but those who 
already share in its corruptions, or who, at some future period, expect to pro- 
mote their personal interests by those very abuses which have exhausted the 
strength and endangered the safety of their country, 

" So much, then, for what the honourable gentleman has said upon this 
subject. It must now be clear that no peace can be obtained. It was not 
even supposed by the friends of Ministers that they were sincere in their 
attempts at peace till the last trial. Then 1 am rather inclined to give them 
credit for sincerity, though I can see that a right honourable gentleman 
(Mr Wyndham) trembles at the very idea of peace with the French republic. 
The honourable gentleman, however, takes it for granted, that there can be 
no choice, but between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon- 
ourable friend ; on a former occasion, however, I stated, that any other set 
of men should try to negotiate peace with France, because any set of men 
must negotiate with a better prospect of success than the present ministers ; 
it is not in nature, that the French can consider the right honourable gentle- 
man capable of maintaining the relations of peace and amity with their 
government. They know that the hostile mind exists, that peace is not 
sought in the spirit of peace, that no real reconciliation is desired. Any 
peace that could be concluded I would consider as a false and hollow truce. 
It could not be a ground of security ; it could not restore the blessings of 
peace. Upon the faith of it I could not consent to the reduction of a single 
man, in the military or naval establishment of this country. Jealousies and 
suspicions would poison all the advantages which a sincere peace could be- 
stow. The French would feel that they furnished to the administration of 
this country tlie means of fomenting the dissensions in France from which 
they cherish the hope of re-establishing royalty ; they would lay themselves 
open to those intrigues, and to that corruption, which have hitherto been em- 
ployed to overthrow their new institutions. If the French Directory could 
encourage or ag ree to such an insidious truce, and expose the government 
which they administer to such attacks, as in this way it would sustain, they 
would be guilty of treason to their country. But it is impossible they could 
Tisk such danf^ers. It is impossible that they could stake their existence on 
the hollow and deceitful peace which the present Minister could offer. 

" The hon.ourable gentleman, then, cannot say, that there is no alternative 
between those who are in power, and those he points out as their successors. 
From differ 'ent men and different measures, hopes of peace might be derived. 
But it is said that my right honourable friend, and those who act with him, 
are co-opei*ating with the French; and what is the proof of this assertion? 
Wliy, the F'rench say so ! This, indeed is a curious mode of proving the fact. 



EIOHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 215 

It would, indeed, be a hard rule, if what the enemy say of what is done by 
any members of the British parliament, was to be the standard by which 
they are to be judged. We are not to be tried by what we have said, by the 
measures we have recommended, by the whole of our conduct, and by our 
own professions, but by the opinion which the enemy may think proper to 
express. But how, then, do we co-operate with the enemy ? We are friends 
to reform ; a phrase which, it seems, is henceforth to be deemed synonymous 
with revolution. But how is this reform, from which such dreadful conse- 
quences are apprehended, to be introduced, even were my right honourable 
friend to support it when in office ? Will not the right honourable gentleman 
be still ready to oppose it ? The honourable gentleman either thinks th^ 
my honourable friend, when minister, will have in favour of reform that cor- 
ruption, that influence, those titles, those jobs and contracts, by which it is 
now opposed ; or he thinks that, parliament being dissolved, that corruption 
and influence will be employed to induce the people to choose representatives 
favourable to the cause of reform. What do these arguments prove, but the 
necessity of reform ? They prove that the pretended representation of the 
country is in the hands of the Crown, to be moulded at the will of the min- 
ister, and thus furnishes the most powerful motive to remove the causes by 
which this corruption is maintained. 

" Having made these remarks upon the topics introduced by the honour- 
able gentleman, I shall next say a few words upon some things which fell 
from a noble lord (Hawkesbury) in yesterday's debate. The noble lord says, 
* that those who oppose all supply ought to have made that opposition when 
the supply was voted.' For my own part, I am not against aU supply, though 
I am not sure that a different conduct would be fully as proper. But, in a 
constitutional view, nothing can be more parliamentary than to refuse voting 
supply. It is fair to infer, that, if Ministers have not the confidence of this 
house, the refusal of supplies would be attended with the immediate resigna- 
tion of those ministers. Certainly it is not the intention of any man that the 
army or navy should be disbanded, and the country laid at the feet of the 
enemy. Such an alternative does not follow from the refusal of supplies. I 
confess, however, when I consider the desperate characters of the ministers 
in power, I think it would not be advisable to risk the attempts of which 
they might be guiltyj to retain their power, even in defiance of the constitu- 
tional privileges of this house. The noble lord, however, says, ' that never 
was the naval superiority of this country more conspicuously displayed, never 
was our naval glory more highly exalted, than by the brilliant victories ob- 
tained during the present war.' What, however, must be the nature of the 
war, when these splendid successes have not brought us nearer to the objects 
for which we engaged in the contest ? What must be the importance of our 
acquisitions, when they are all to be given for peace ? * How would France 
have stood had we not interfered?' says the noble lord. 'What additional 
strength would she not have derived from those ships and those colonies of 
which she has been deprived by our success ? ' But let any man weigh* the 



216 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

advantages we have derived from our success, with the sacrifices by which 
they have been purchased. Will any man say, that, if this country had pre- 
served a dignified neutrality, France, surrounded as she was by foreign 
enemies, would have still more oppressed and harassed her subjects to raise 
a naval power which no danger required ? Contrary to all practice, to all 
experience of what has been considered as the object of continental diversion 
promoted l)y this country, would France, in the situation in which she was 
placed, have turned her attention to naval exertions ? But we gained seve- 
ral ships by the victory of the 1st of June,* by the capture of Toulon,f by the 
acquisition of those charnel-houses in the West Indies, in which 50,000 men 
have been lost to this country. Consider the price which has been paid for 
these successes. For these boasted successes, I will say, give me back the 
blood of Englishmen which has been shed in this fatal contest — give me back 
the £250,000,000 of debt which it has occasioned — give me back the hon- 
our of the country, which has been tarnished — give me back the credit of the 
country which has been destroyed — give me back the solidity of the Bank 
of England, which has been overthrown^ — give me back the attachment 
of the people to their ancient constitution, which has been shaken by acts of 
oppression and tyrannical laws — give me back the kingdom of Ireland, § the 
connexion of which is endangered by a cruel and outrageous system of mili- 
tary coercion — give me back that pledge of eternal war which must be 
attended with inevitable ruin ! Put what we have lost into the scale against 
what we have gained, and say if the price exceeds the value of the object. 
But even all these advantages, we are told, may be given up for peace. 
Surely, then, a person of the noble lord's abilities can never consider these 
objects as acquisitions, which are to be given up for peace, and leave us with- 
out a compensation for all the sacrifices which we have made for their attain- 
ment. The noble lord says, ' that the value of the West India Islands taken 
from the enemy, must be estimated in relation to our own. By the ofiensive 
measures against the former, the latter were preserved.' If this be the case, 
then, when we give up the islands we have conquered, we give up our own 
islands, and abandon the security by which they are held. Such are the 

* Lord Howe's celebrated victory, 1st June, 1794. f Seepage 179. 

'I In consequence of the large advances made by the Bank to Government for the 
public service, and remittances to foreign states, added to the run on the country banks, 
which some extended to London, from the fear of threatened invasion by the French, 
an order was issued by the Privy Council prohibiting the Bank from paying their notes 
in gold, and an act of Parliament was shortly after passed for the same object. By the 
reports of the Secret Committee, appointed by the House, it appeared that, at the 
time of the suspension of cash payments, the assets of the Bank amounted to £3,826,890 
beyond its liabilities, independent of £11,666,800 in the 3 per cents, due from 
Government. 

§ In a subsequent part of this year, 1798, the great Irish Rebellion broke out, in 
which upwards of 30,000 lives were sacrificed. By ministers, the rebellion was at- 
tributed to the spread of Jacobinical principles through seditious clubs, and by the 
opposition to a tyrannical and unconstitutional system of government. 



KICHAHD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 21/ 

acqttLitions which we have made at the expense of so much blood and 
treasure. 

" With regard to the continental war, the noble lord says, ' that we had 
done our duty ;' but he now discovers that our allies were guilty of every 
error, and all of them were destitute of common honesty. After some years' 
experience of the conduct of our allies, and of the principles by which they 
were guided, the noble lord could vote for giving two millions to one of 
them !^ Even this ally, the theme of so much panegyric, in whose success it 
was said that every peasant in this country was interested, in whose glory 
every Englishman partook, is now comprehended in the general charge of the 
noble lord against the continental members of the confederacy. But, in the 
prosecution of their views of personal interest and aggrandisement, they took 
the example from the conduct of this country. When they found the hypo- 
critical pretences of religion, morality, and social order belied by our eager- 
ness to seize upon every island, to plunder every possession which was ex- 
posed to our power, they began to entertain similar views, and to be actuated 
by the same motives. Those who would succeed ministers, it is said, how- 
ever, are connected with Jacobins. Who are they who are connected with 
the Jacobins ? Would it be the same thing to entrust the administration of 
affairs in the hands of those who oppose ministers, as if the Whigs, in 1745, 
had resigned the state into the hands of the Tories ?f The latter was avowedly 
desirous to alter the succession ; but will gentlemen seriously say, that they 
believe that those whom they represent as the only rivals of the present 
ministers, are leagued with any faction to alter the constitution of this 
country, in the same manner as the Jacobites, in the year 1745, were hostile 
to the existing establishment ? 

" Availing myself of the latitude of reply upon the general topics brought 
forward by those who have spoken upon anything but the question before 
the House, I shall now proceed to make some remarks on the speech of a 
learned doctor who spoke last night. | Having come to this House several 
hours after the debate had begun, and finding that the gentlemen who spoke, 
after I came in, confined themselves very little to the discussion of the present 
measure, I was obliged to take it for granted, the particular question before 
the House had been very fully discussed in the speeches which were made 
before my arrival. The learned doctor to whom I have alluded, perhaps, 
may not remember that he spoke at all. A wise man, it is said, doubts of 
everything ; and the learned doctor seemed to carry his scepticism a great 
way, for at the commencement of his speech he doubted whether he was 

* Two millions and a half were voted for the King of Prussia in 1794 ; notwith- 
standing which, he withdrew from the coalition in 1795, and concluded a treaty with 
France, engaging not to furnish his former allies with any succours or contingents 
whatsoever. See p. 175. 

t The time of the attempted invasion by Charles Edward Stuart, son of the Che- 
valier de St George. See note, p. 3, 

t Dr Lawrence. 



218 - THE MODERN ORATOR, 

speaking. I remember the words with which he began were, ' Sir, in rising 
to address myself to you on the present occasion, if I have risen.' If the 
learned gentleman still doubts whether he spoke at all, I can assure him that 
he made a very ingenious, a very elaborate, and certainly a long speech upon 
a variety of topics, without speaking at all to the bill before the House ; and, 
if he doubts my authority, any other gentleman may probably give him the 
same assurance. The learned gentleman went into a wide view of Roman 
history, and told us, upon the authority of Scipio, that we had little to 
dread from the threatened invasion of the enemy, because they must conquer 
us before we could conquer them. What would the lord mayor and alder- 
men of London say, if the learned gentleman were to tell them, when 
Buonaparte was encamped at Blackheath, that they need be under no appre- 
hension ; that, before he could advance to burn the city of London, Lord 
Hawkesbury was advancing to lay Paris in ashes ? I should like to see the 
faces of the mercantile world, when they were informed, on the authority of 
Scipio, that they could -not be safe till the enemy were at the gates of the 
metropolis, and that they could not hope for a successful termination of the 
contest, till they had been first conquered ! In the representation of the 
conduct of Hanno, at Carthage, by whose exertions the supplies were refused 
to Hannibal, the learned doctor did not do justice to Hanno. At the same 
time it is to be observed, that he said not a word of the striking difference 
between Hanno the Carthaginian, and the Hanno whom he insinuated to be 
in the British senate. Hanno succeeded in keeping back the supplies. "^ 
But has the British Hanno ever been able to prevail upon the senate to 
refuse supplies ? has he unnerved the vigour of our exertions ? has he 
checked the career of success ? has he suspended our victorious arms in the 
moment of triumph. ? On the contrary, has not the Minister received sup- 
plies with unexampled profusion ? has he not been allowed to employ them 
as he thought proper ? has he ever been rebuked for misapplication ? has 
his misconduct ever been the subject even of inquiry ? Hannibal, too, was 
a young man — -Jlagrantem cnpidine regni. The argument of Hanno was, ' I 
hear of the victories of Hannibal, but I hear of no advantage which they 
produce to Carthage. Every victory is followed by fresh demands and new 
requisitions. The continuance of the war, therefore, must prove ruinous to 
Carthage.' The affairs of the Carthaginians afterwards miscarried. Hanni- 
bal afterwards laughed at his countrymen. But what did he laugh at ? He 

* Mr Sheridan here was in error, for a large majority of the Carthaginian senate 
voted for sending the supplies asked for. The account, in Livy, lib. xxiii., c. 13, is, 
" Haud multos movit Hannonis oratio ; nam et simultas cum familid Barcina leviorem 
auctorem faciebat, et occupati animi prsesenti laetitia nihil, quo vanius fieret gaudium 
suum, auribus admittebant ; debellatumque mox fore, si anniti paululum voluissent, 
rebantur. Itaque ingenti consensu fit senatAs-consultum, ut Hannibali quatuor 
Numidarum millia in supplementum mitterentur, et quadraginta elephanti et argenti 
multa talenta. Dictatorque cum Magone in Hispaniam prsemissus est, ad condu- 
cenda viginti milha peditum, quatuor equitum, quibus exercitus qui in Italia, quique 
in Hispanic erant, supplereiitur." 



RICHARD BKINSLEY SHERIDAN. 219 

laughed at those men who affected to be dissatisfied with the terms of peace, 
without considering in whose hands they had left the conduct of the war. 
In similar circumstances, any man might, perhaps, smile, like Hannibal, to 
see the people of this country discontented with the terms of peace, when it 
was remembered that the war was prosecuted under the auspices of the 
present ministers. 

" I cannot refrain, however, fi-om expressing my astonishment, that a 
grave personage like the learned gentleman, a member of the gravest pro- 
fession which this house contains, should bring forward all his school-boy 
politics to evince the propriety of invading France. The learned gentleman, 
perhaps, thinks that it falls to his share to support in this House the opinions 
of a man of much greater talents, of much higher endowments — the late Mr 
Burke, whose name ought never to be mentioned but with respect. He 
thinks, perhaps, that he is the executor of that great man's principles ; that 
he is called upon to administer to his fury without possessing a single spark 
of his fire. I regret that any gentleman should conceive himself the repre- 
sentative of the violent and extravagant declamations, which so fatally were 
received in this House with so much approbation, and which have been at- 
tended with such lamentable consequences to this country and to Europe. 

" The frivolous school-boy topics, for such they are, upon which the learned 
gentlemen proposes to model our conduct, have, indeed, no similarity to the 
circumstances in which we are placed. When he desires to imitate the con- 
duct of the Romans, does he remember that the Romans were a people inured 
to w^ar and to hardships ? Does he mean to compare a commercial country 
like Great Britain with a warlike people like the Romans, or to point out 
similar rules of policy for the guidance of our conduct ? Had Rome the debt 
by which this country is borne down ? Had Rome the bulwark of a navy 
supported by commerce ? Would sacking that capital have given a death to 
that credit by which alone we can subsist as a nation r If the arguments of 
the learned gentleman could even produce the effect which he desires, the 
event would not furnish a subject for the moralist and the historian, but the 
fate which would await the right honourable gentleman, if he was seduced by 
such counsels, might be expressed in the language of the poet — 

*' 'I demens curre per Alpes, 

Ut pueris placeas et declamatio fias.' 

Posterity would brand his name in the same mamier, furnishing, in his de- 
struction only, the subject of panegyric to school-boy politicians, and a speech 
to a grave doctor learned in the law. 

" The learned gentleman, amidst all his topics of argument, said nothing as 
to the nature of the bill before the House. If, after the deviations which the 
course of the debate has taken, I may venture to take that liberty without 
being called to order, I shall now say a few words to the question. It has 
been asked. Do those who oppose this measure admit the principle, or can 
they produce anything better ? Certainly no person is bound to propose a 



2^0 THE MODEBN OEATOR. 

measure of his own when he rises to oppose that of the Chancelloi^ of the 
Exchequer : yet, in such a crisis as the present, it Avould be unmanly to 
withhold any ideas which we can contribute, or any of the sentiments we 
entertain. I then say that the only mode by which any sum like that re- 
quired can be raised, is by a loan, the interest of which is to be paid by 
taxes, or voluntary contribution, with a sinking fund for the extinction of the 
debt.* This is the true principle by which money can be raised in this 
country. Suppose it is impossible to borrow : in such a state of things this 
country is ruined. If Government cannot borrow, the subject cannot give. 
I am very far from wishing to inculcate despair. If I really entertained such 
a sentiment, I should wish to disguise it even from myself. But we may yet 
borrow. How, then, are the funds to be raised to that state at which it may 
be convenient to borrow ? It must be done by abandoning the system on 
which we have proceeded — by retrenchment in the public expense. If public 
spirit does exist, voluntary subscriptions may afford some aid ; but of this, 
I confess, I am not very sanguine. Above all, however, it is necessary to re- 
store the Bank to its former credit, to prevent any stipulation being made to 
prevent it from paying its just debts, and to restore to the country the bless- 
ing of peace. As to the present measure, it must end in forced contribution 
of income by forced disclosure, a thing utterly irreconcilable to the spirit of a 
free and commercial country. If assessors were to be appointed, arbitrarily to 
make assessments of the income of every individual, which, from the surveys 
already made by the collectors of the income of individuals, seems to be the 
design of Ministers, such a mode of proceeding would be a better criterion 
than the assessed taxes. In my mind, no criterion at all, however good it 
may be thought, can render the principle tolerable. Those who, from the 
criterion taken up by the minister this year, have been caught, will be careful 
in future to avoid any external symptoms by which, on any future occasion, 
they might be assessed. It will occasion universal retrenchment, and, conse- 
quently, injure the revenue by destroying consumption. The effect of this 
system of retrenchment will diminish the public revenue by at least two 
millions. An arbitrary assessment would be better than that taken on any 
criterion, because the former would make it indifferent to the person contribut- 
ing, whither he spent all his income or not : while the latter would induce 
him to avoid every appearance that could be made the future standard of 
contribution. A coachmaker, in Long- acre, would do wisely, if he could, to 
give at once a hundred pounds, than a much smaller sum which deprived him 
of his customers. In the same manner the watchmakers. Their employment 
was not taxed, because that would seem to tax ingenious mechanics ; but 
those who wore watches were taxed, and many industrious men were reduced 
to the most deplorable wretchedness. The whole system and principle of the 
measure appears utterly irreconcilable with every wise and just scheme of 
taxation. 

* This was the principle proposed by Mr Pitt, in 1786, for the reduction of the 
national debt. 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 221 

"What substitute, then, is to be taken ? There are but three ways in which 
this sum can be raised within the year — either by voluntary contributions, 
by increasing the existing taxes, or by a forced loan ; and of these three the 
present measure is the worst. Might not the whole of the plan be post- 
poned, except that which provides for voluntary contributions ? And I am 
sure, for one, I have no objection to read the bill, in that case, three times in 
one day, that we may try this experiment. With this bill hanging over us, 
such contributions could not be called voluntary, for no man could hesitate, 
in point of prudence, to pay the full amount of what he would be obliged to 
pay, rather than be made to contribute on the valuation of income taken 
from any visible symptoms. I am not very sanguine of the success of vo- 
luntary contributions,* without some such compulsions From the highest to 
the lowest of those connected with the government, there has been no dispo- 
sition to give up anything : there has been no example to the people of this 
spirit of sacrifice. It is not easy to encourage individuals in the habits of 
acquisition, and the spirit of liberality towards the government. If a Bengal 
memshi, or a Chinese mandarin, were to be informed that £400,000,000 had 
been lent to the government by individuals ; that a race was run by the 
competitors for the preference; that men contended about the subdivision of 
the portions, and parcelled out the parts among a crowd of friends, he would 
be ready to exclaim, ' O magnanimous, O invincible people !' Were he 
again to be told that the views which actuated the lenders were selfish ; that 
their profits were usurious ; that loyalty-loan holders had besieged that house 
for indemnification for the loss sustained on a bargain, he would exclaim, ' O 
wretched, O undone peppk !' It is by addressing the interest of this body 
of men, however, that the accommodation of the government can be secured ; 
and how is the credit of the country to be restored to that situation which 
will render it practicable ? 

" No disposition to contribute voluntarily has yet been displayed, from the 
very highest to the lowest ranks in the administration of government. While 
a teller of the Exchequer receives £10,000 or £12,000 a-year by the war, a 
near relation of that person contends that no peace ought to be made. But 
I am told, that it is rude, uncourteous, and vulgar, to suppose that such a 
sum could influence the sentiments of any man. Rude, uncourteous, and 
vulgar as this is, the constitution is that rude, vulgar fellow, though the 
right honourable gentleman will flout and scorn those who suppose motives 
of this nature. The constitution is jealous of the effect of office, and even 
sends a man back to his constituents who accepts a situation to which im- 
portant duties are attached. I have high authority, therefore, in supposing, 
that some bias may affect the mind where interest powerfully prompts a man 
to support any system of measures. I recollect, that at the end of the 

* A clause was subsequently introduced into the bill for the purpose of admitting 
voluntary contributions, and the sum thus received amounted to £1,500,000, of which 
the Bank gave £200,000, the King £20,000, and the Queen £5,000. 



222 THE MODERjST oratoe. 

Ameiican war, wlien I was secretary to the Trea^ry, the noble marquis, 
who is teller of the Exchequer, wrote a letter to the commissioners of the 
Treasury, requesting that the office might be placed in the reform, but saying, 
at the same time, that his conscience would burn to think that he was pro- 
fiting by the calamities of the country. This offer, however, was declined. 
Now, however, when the public exigencies so strongly demand some sacri- 
fice, I am persuaded the noble marquis will not only be ready to forego a 
part of the profits of this office, but will bring up all the arrears that burn 
upon his conscience since the year 1783. 

" Last year, I took occasion to state, that twenty-four millions would be 
necessary for the peace establishment of the country, taking the average 
peace establishment before the war at seventeen millions. Since that period, 
seven and a half milUions of permanent taxes have been added, and it will 
require another million and a half before the sum already expended and due 
can be provided. Thus, twenty-six milUons must be raised, though peace 
was immediately to take place. When it is considered, however, what any 
new peace establishment must be ; when the system which is pursued in 
this country is taken into view ; when the manner in which Ireland is not 
governed, but ground down and oppressed ; when the hollow and deceitful 
nature of any peace with the right honourable gentleman is recollected, no 
man can think that two millions more, making twenty-eight millions, would 
be an extravagant computation as the amount of the permanent peace esta- 
blishment. This is a tremendous and awful consideration; but, if the 
country is to be saved, we must look our situation in the face, and make 
provision for the utmost extent of our difficulties. 

" A\Tiile the Bank continues in its present state of dependence on the 
minister, it is impossible to hope, however, that public credit can be re- 
stored, and the funds raised. Last year, much was said in the newspapers 
about the connexion between the right honourable gentleman and the Bank. 
It was said, that the banns had been forbid. The conduct of the Chancellor 
of the Exchequer showed, that he cultivated the connexion on account of 
the lady's dowry, not for the comfort of her society. At first, the afiair 
seemed to present the appearance of a penitent seduction, but now it has 
degenerated into a contented prohibition. The country wished to forgive 
the indiscretion, on the hopes of amendment. "What has produced the in- 
fatuation it is not easy to conjecture, unless the right honourable gentleman 
had given the old lady love-powder. The hey-day of the blood was over, 
but the rankness of the passion has not subsided. The dear deceiver is 
taken into favour, and the ruin he has occasioned is forgotten. 

" Upon the examination into the affairs of the Bank, the standing com- 
mittee of correspondence between the Bank and the Ministers pronounce, that 
there are sufficient means to pay all the private debts of the Bank — but the 
Minister interposes. The Bank is placed in the situation of a person who 
can pay and will not. Of all situations, none could be more injurious to 
credit than this. When it is known that men are willing to pay, credit 



EICHART) BHINSLEY SHERIDAN. 223 

stretches a great way in favour of their ability ; but when a person is under- 
stood to be able to pay, and will not, the confidence on which credit must be 
founded is overthrown. 

" The manner in which the last report of the Bank committee is drawn up, 
is likewise very curious. It is found there is enough of fund to pay the pri- 
vate creditors of the Bank ; but the Chancellor of the Exchequer says, ' No !' 
and claps his lock and key on their coffers. Without meaning any quibble 
on the name of the honourable chairman of the committee, the conduct of 
the right honourable gentleman irresistibly reminds me of an old proverb. 
The report of the committee is very favourable, but still the Bank must be 
kept under confinement. ' Brag is a good dog,' says the Chancellor of the 
Exchequer, ' but Holdfast is a better,' and the Bank must be kept under the 
tutorage of the Minister, till he finds it convenient for himself to set the 
directors at liberty. The advances made by the Bank to government occa- 
sioned the first stoppage, and now three millions are again to be advanced 
without any security whatever. If the directors do not insist on some secu- 
rity for their repayment, they will be guilty of a gross breach of duty, and 
the most culpable neglect of the interest of their constituents. It seems 
that the Bank is to be the new Temple of Janus — ever shut in time of war.* 
While war continues we must be contented to view the meagre paper pro- 
file ; nor will we be permitted to contemplate the golden bust till the return 
of peace. The French Directory are thus to have the keys of the Bank, 
which cannot be opened till they grant permission. 

" The right honourable gentleman says, ' that the French aim their attacks 
against the credit of this country, and it is necessary to guard against their 
designs.' The expression of the report is whimsical enough : it states, that 
the enemy design to attack us 'by means of our credit.' ' No,' says the 
Chancellor of the Exchequer, * I have taken care to take that weapon out of 
your hands ; a dangerous weapon like this I certainly will not leave you to 
employ,' It is said by some, that the conduct of those who oppose the 
Minister encourages the French ; while, on the contrary, the whole system of 
his administration tends to encourage their designs. He has taught them to 
believe that he governs the lower classes only by coercion, and the upper 
ranks by corruption. More is done by the language held by some gentlemen 
in this house, that it is necessary to confine the soldiers in barracks, to make 
them deaf if the people cannot be made dumb, than by any conduct which 
can be imputed to the opposers of Ministers. By showing that the Minister 
can get no supported unpurchased, the enemy are led to think that there is 
no public spirit in the country — that nothing can be done but by jobs, and 
titles, and pensions. What can they think of those who come forward under 

* Janus was worshipped by the Romans as a Deity presiding over war, and was 
hence called Quirinus, or Martialis. He was also named Patuleius, and Clausius, from 
the circumstance of the gates of the temples dedicated to him being always open in 
time of war, and shut in time of peace ; and so constantly were the Romans engaged in 
war, that the gates of this temple were only shut three times in more than 700 years. 

Q 2 



224 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

the pretence of public spirit, when they see that every man obtains his own 
private job as the reward of his ministerial devotion ? They saw that dis- 
grace after disgrace never diminished his power ; that every successive attack 
on liberty was defended and supported by compliant majorities ; that every 
new failure served only to rivet the attachment of his servile adherents. 
When they see the nation endure these things, can they conceive that it will 
be found to contain much public spirit to resist a foreign enemy ? Beyond 
question, great sacrifices must be made, whoever is minister ; and, if the 
enemy persevere in their designs, resistance to invasion must be encouraged 
at every hazard. We must give up the idea, however, of doing this, and 
continuing in a state of luxury. Should it be necessary, we must show that 
we are ready to strip to the skin to maintain our independence and our liber- 
ties, in the same manner as they were compelled to struggle for their freedom. 
It is mere cant and delusion to talk any longer of giving up a part to pre- 
serve the whole — that we must leave both our liberty and property unmort- 
gaged to posperity. If I am called upon to pay a shilling to preserve a pound, 
this is intelligible ; but if I am called upon twenty times successively for my 
shilling, it is ridiculous to tell me of giving up a part for the preservation of 
the whole. This will not do : and as a worthy baronet (Sir W. Pulteney) 
said on another occasion, ' if it is so often repeated, it comes to no joke.' 
This kind of paradoxical insult cannot long be endured. It will not do to 
tell us, that sending millions of money to Germany, for the defence of this 
country, is true economy ; that to lop off the most valuable of our liberties,* 
is to preserve the constitution ; that not to pay its lawful creditors, is to sup- 
port the credit of the Bank; and to introduce an universal disclosure of income, 
is to protect property. This is the last stage of such delusion. The tricks 
have been too often repeated to elude the most inattentive observation. While 
the affairs of this country continue in the same hands, they cannot be admi- 
nistered wisely or well. The country cannot have confidence in a system, 
always unsuccessful, now hopeless ; and the dismissal of Ministers must be 
the preliminary step to any vigour of system, any prospect of peace." 
On a division of the House, the bill was carried by 196 to 71. 



Speech in support of the motion by Mr. Yorke, the Secretary at War, for 
a peace establishment of 130,000 men, exclusive of 50,000 already voted for 
the service of the navy — 8th December, 1802. 

Notwithstanding that a definitive treaty of peace between the French 
Republic and Great Britain had been signed at Amiens, in March, 1802, a 
cordial reconciliation was very far from being effected, and the political mea- 
sures of the First Consul plainly indicated that he had little regard for the 
preservation of amicable relations. His continual encroachments, after the 
signing of the preliminaries of the peace on the 1st October, 1801, naturaUy 

* Mr. Sheridan alluded to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. See page 191, 



RICHAKD BEINSLEY SHEHIDAlSr. 225 

excited jealousy, and would have led to a declaration of war, had not the 
European powers been, at that time, heartily tired of bloodshed, and most 
anxious to obtain peace, even at considerable sacrifice. From Spain, Napo- 
leon procured the cession of Louisiana and Parma. Piedmont he annexed to 
France, and divided into compartments. By a treaty with Portugal, he ac- 
quired Portuguese Guiana ; and, by an agreement with Naples and Tuscany, 
the Island of Elba. By his interference, as mediator, in the disputes of the 
Swiss, he destroyed the independence of Switzerland, and made it completely 
dependent on France. Guadaloupe was recovered in the West Indies. By a 
treaty concluded with the Cisalpine Republic, Napoleon procured himself to 
be appointed their President ; the constitution of the Batavian and Ligurian 
Republics were remodelled, to meet his views, in disregard of the treaty of 
Luneville, by which the independence of the republics of Italy and Holland 
had been guaranteed ; and there were good grounds for supposing that an- 
other attempt on Egypt was contemplated. Besides all these evidences of 
bad faith, the hostility of Napoleon towards England was plainly manifested 
by the restrictions he imposed on the importation of British goods into France, 
which nearly amounted to their prohibition. It was therefore impossible, in 
this state of affairs, for foreign powers, and more especially for England, 
which had taken so prominent a part in the war, to make any considerable 
reduction in the war establishments. The so-called definitive treaty of peace 
could only be regarded as a temporary suspension of actual hostilities, which 
Avere certain of being renewed as soon as either circumstances might render 
them advantageous to the First Consul, or the patience of the foreign powers 
had become exhausted. It has been aptly remarked, that, during this period, 
" peace sat like down upon the thistle's top." On the meeting of the English 
Parliament in November, 1802, the King, while he expressed his desire for 
the maintenance of peace, recommended that, for the present, no material re- 
duction should be made in the war forces, and the addresses in approbation of 
the royal speech were voted in both houses without a division. On the 8th 
December following, the debate on the Army Estimates took place, and on 
that occasion Mr. Sheridan delivered the following Speech : — 
" Sin,— 
" Being in the situation alluded to by the right honourable gentle- 
man who has just sat down,* of not being able to agree precisely with any 
of those who have preceded me, yet, being at the same time unwilling to 
give a silent vote on the present occasion, I rise with some sentiments of re- 
luctance. There is one thing, however, in which we all coincide ; it is, that 
the crisis in which we are placed is so big with tremendous importance, so 
pregnant with mighty difficulties, so full of apprehensions and dangers, that 
the House and the country have a right to know what are the intentions and 
views of those by whose exertions we may expect to be extricated from the 
complication of embarrassments, and snatched from the very brink of destruc- 
tion. Sir, one of the ci»cumstances I most regret in this debate is, the refer- 

* The Right Honourable D. Ryder. 



226 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

ences that have been made to the characters and abilities of persons supposed 
to be fit to fill particular offices. I feel this as a subject of regret, and, feel- 
ing so, am sorry that my honourable friend near me made any allusion even 
to one man, whom of all men upon earth I most love and respect, because I 
do view the crisis to be one of such moment and peril ; and because, if 
ever there was a time in which we should prove to the people of England 
that we are above all party feelings, that we are above all party distinc- 
tions, that we are superior to any petty scramble for places and power, 
that time is the present. Sir, in speaking upon these topics, I do find a 
disposition in some gentlemen to rebuke any man who shall deliver an 
opinion with respect to the First Consul of France. One honourable 
gentleman, who rebuked an honourable general that spoke before him, 
declared that he would not give his opinion with respect to the conduct 
of France to Switzerland ;''>' and what does his rebuke amount to ? He con- 
fesses that, upon that subject, there can be but one opinion. Why then, Sir, 
he either adopts the opinion of the honourable general, or not. If he does 
adopt it, he gives us as strong an opinion against the conduct of France as 
can possibly be given. If he does not adopt it, why then, all that we can say 
is, that there are two opinions. ' But what,' he asks, ' has Switzerland to do 
with the question r' It has this to do with it : the honourable general intro- 
duced the subject in this way ; he contends that a power which is capable 
of such unprovoked aggression, and such perfidy, is the power that ought to 
be watched. But the honourable gentleman goes on to assert, that we 
have nothing to do with the case of Switzerland, nothing to do with France, 
nothing but with her power. Nothing but her power! as if that were 
little. He asks, too, ' Where is the great difference between France under the 
Bourbons and under her present ruler ?' Why, Sir, the honourable general 
inferred from the conduct of France, that, with her growing power, she had 
a growing disposition to mischief. ' But is that power,' demands the hon- 
ourable gentleman, ' greater now than it was last June ?' Perhaps it is not, 
Sir ; but her mischievous disposition is greater ; and if I am asked to bring 
a proof of the truth of my assertion, I must bring the case of Switzerland. 
Sir, if I see a purposed contempt of the independence of a nation ; if I see a 
perfidious disregard of the faith of treaties; if I see a power withdraw her 
assistance, only to return and entrap a country of freemen with greater 

* Ever since the year 1798, when Buonaparte had violently changed the old form of 
■ constitution in Switzerland, banished or destroyed all the ruling families, and contracted 
an alliance, offensive and defensive, between the French and Swiss republic?, the latter 
had been in a state of servile dependence on France. In 1802 Buonaparte prepared for 
it a new constitution, which was received by the senate, but violently opposed in seve- 
ral of tVie smaller cantons, and especially in Schwytz, Uri, and XJnderwalden, and a civil 
war was the consequence. The existing government, which was completely subservient 
to the views of Napoleon, immediately appealed to him as their mediator. Napoleon 
having accepted the office, though with affected disinclination, quickly brought matters 
to a close. A French army of 30,000 men was immediately marched into Switzerland . 
all opposition crushed; the new constitution was established; and Switzerland 
became, in effect, a French province. 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 227 

certainty ; why then, I say, there has been a change, and a great change too, 
and that such a power we have a right to watch. ' But,' says the honourable 
gentleman, ' we have no right to make use of invectives against the first 
Consul of France.' I will abstain if I can ; I say, if I can, because I feel 
that even a simple narrative may be constructed into invective. With regard 
to the general question of a disposition to peace or war, I delare that I am 
as strongly and as sincerely for the preservation of peace as any man, and 
that I do not consider war as any remedy for the evils complained of. If a 
war spirit be springing up in this country, if a chivalrous disposition be ob- 
servable, if a sentiment of indignation be rising upon the subject of the 
treatment of Switzerland, I for one shall contend that the treatment of Switzer- 
land is no cause of war. I would therefore say,^Preserve peace if possible : 
peace if possible, because the effects of war, always calamitous, may be 
calamitous indeed, buckling, as we should be forced to do, all our sinews and 
strength to that power, in a contest with her upon such grounds. I repeat, 
therefore, peace if possible ; but I add, resistance, prompt, resolute, deter- 
mined resistance to the first aggression, be the consequences what they may. 
Influenced by these sentiments, I shall vote cordially and cheerfully for this 
large peace establishment ; and it is because I shall vote for it that I think 
myself bound to state my reasons. Sir, some gentlemen seem to consider 
what they advance as so many axioms, too clear to need explanation or to 
require defence. But, when I vote for so large an establishment, I think 
myself not at liberty to bind such a burthen upon my constituents, without 
stating the grounds upon which I act, and the principles by which I am 
prompted. Sir, I have listened, with all the attention I am master of, to the 
different arguments that have been advanced in the present debate. One 
honourable gentleman, who spoke second,* appears to be a decided enemy to 
a great establishment, and the reasons he gave for his opposition, I confess, 
perfectly astonished me. Luckily, he has no rapid flippancy in his manner : 
his sentiments are delivered too soberly and sedately to be mistaken. I am 
sure I mean nothing disrespectful to that gentleman, who amply repays the 
attention that is paid to him. But he says, ' If ministers had only said to him 
that danger existed, he for one would have voted for the force proposed.' 
Does he doubt the danger ? He complains that his Majesty's ministers do 
not state it precisely. But does he pretend that he does not see and feel it ? 
Can any one look at the map of Europe and be blind to it ? Can any one have 
a heart to resist apprehended injury, and say that we ought not to be prepared.^ 
* But,' he asks, 'why raise only one hundred thousand men ? You can never 
equal the military power of France, and, as you cannot, why stop at one 
hundred thousand ? Why not raise one hundred and twenty, one hundred 
and thirty, or one hundred and forty thousand ? If this argument be worth 
anything, it applies equally to our raising only one thousand. Why, if we 
can never be equal to France, raise a man ? Another gentleman, who spoke 

* Mr. Bankes, 



228 THE MODERN OKATOH. 

last, lias alluded to alliance, and I agree perfectly with him in what he 
advanced against making any pledges. He has alluded to the fate of the 
pledges made in the war of the succession, in the war of 1741 ; but, if he 
meant to be impartial, he need not have gone back so far ; he need not have 
travelled beyond the last war ; he might have mentioned the pledges then 
given ; he might have recollected the pledge of never giving up the Nether- 
lands ; he might have recalled to our minds the pledge of obtaining indemnity 
for the past and security for the future ; he might have dwelt upon the pledge 
of exhausting the last drop of our blood in the contest for religion, order, and 
civilised society, the toto certahmi corpore regni ; he might have reminded us 
of all these pledges made, and of all of them having been abandoned. He 
confesses his warmth of friendship for the late minister,* and he certainly 
never showed it more than in stopping so short with his historical narrative 
of pledges. The next excellent reasoning of the honourable gentleman who 
spoke second against the proposed vote, is that, in the first year of the war, 
there will be an immense army drawn upon the opposite coast, and therefore, 
now it is not necessary to be prepared. When the army is upon your shores, 
when the trumpet of the enemy sounds at your gates, then it is time to be 
prepared. Appearance of security, he contends, often gives the effect of 
security. If we have large armies, France will think we raise them through 
fear ; if we do not have them, she will think that we feel ourselves perfectly 
secure. I have heard instances, Sir, where mounting wooden guns upon a 
fort has produced the same security as if there had been real ones. But 
unluckily, in this instance, for us, by our constitutional form of proceeding, 
our whole force must be known ; we cannot pass upon an enemy wooden 
guns, and an army at Brentford. If we vote no force, an enemy will know 
we have none. ' But have no arms, throw- away your guns,' is the advice of 
the honourable gentleman. Sir, when every house in my neighbourhood 
has been attacked and robbed by a gang of ruffians, how my having no arms 
is to save me from a visit from them, I must leave the honourable gentleman 
to explain. His next argument is, that it is unreasonable in us to believe 
that Buonaparte wishes to be at war with us ; for he thinks the French have 
nothing to gain by invasion. Nothing to gain ? What else have they to 
lose but that of which it has been said that they have so much to spare, and 
what have they not to gain ? Sir, I cannot but think this as unbecoming a 
sentiment as ever was uttered. But, ' it is unreasonable to think that the 
French wish to meddle with us.' Why, I protest I cannot explain. If, as 
has been said, they have felt our arms, they who have been everywhere else 
successful, must view the only power whose arms they have felt, with feelings 
of warm resentment, and with sentiments of mortified pride. But look at 
the map of Europe ; there, where a great man (who, however, was always 
wrong on this subject) said he looked for France, and found nothing but a 
chasm. Look at that map now, and see nothing but France. It is in our 

* Mr. Pitt, who had been succeeded by Mr. Addington in 1801, 



KICHARD BEINSLEY SHERIDAN. 229 

power to measure her territory, to reckon her population, but it is scarcely 
within the grasp of any man's mind to measure the ambition of Buonaparte. 
Why, when all Europe bows down before him — why, when he has subdued 
the whole continent, he should feel such great respect for us, I am at a loss 
to discover. If, then, it be true, as I have stated, that his ambition is of that 
immeasurable nature, there are abundant and obvious reasons why it must 
be progressive — reasons much stronger than any that could have been used 
under the power of the Bourbons. They were ambitious, but it was not so 
necessary for them to feed their subjects with the spoils and plunder of war ; 
they had the attachm^ent of a long-established family applied to them ; they 
had the ejffect and advantage of hereditary succession. But I see, in the very 
situation and composition of the power of Buonaparte, a physical necessity 
for him to go on in this barter with his subjects, and to promise to make them 
the masters of the world if they will consent to be his slaves. I see then, I 
repeat, this strong reason for his pursuing this system of policy. If that be 
the case, must not his most anxious looks be directed to Great Britain ? 
Everything else is petty and contemptible compared with it. Russia, if not 
in his power, is, at least, in his influence — Prussia is at his beck — Italy is his 
vassal — Holland is in his grasp — Spain at his nod — Turkey in his toils — 
Portugal at his foot : — v/hen I see this, can I hesitate in stating my feelings ? 
still less can I hesitate in giving a vote that shall put us upon our guard 
against the machinations and workings of such an ambition? But it has 
been said, that it is possible he may mean nothing more than rivalry of com- 
merce. Happy, Sir, shall I be, if such an idea enter into his head at all, 
much more if it form part of his plans. But I confess that I cannot see that 
it does. I mark him taking positions calculated to destroy our commerce, 
but I do not find him doing anything for the mutual benefit of the trade of 
the two countries. I see him anxious to take possession of Louisiana, and 
to use the ports of St. Domingo to carry out the West India and Jamaica 
trade. I can conceive a possible case, in which such positions might be 
taken as to force us to surrender our commerce without a stroke. An 
ignorant observer may see two armies, and may say there is no war, because 
there is no battle ; yet one of them may make such movements as to compel 
the other to surrender without striking a blow. 

" Of the commercial talents of Buonaparte, I can be supposed to know but 
little ; but, bred in camps, it cannot be imagined that his commercial know- 
ledge can be very great ; and, indeed, if I am rightly informed, he is proceed- 
ing in the old plan of heavy duties and prohibitions. But he would go a 
shorter way to work with us. The old country has credit, and capital, and 
commercial enterprise ; and he may think, if he can subjugate us, that he 
can carry them off to France like so many busts and marbles. But he would 
find himself mistaken ; that credit would wither under the gripe of power ; 
that capital would sink into the earth, if trodden upon by the foot of a 
despot ; that commercial enterprise would, I believe, lose all its vigour in the 
presence of an arbitrary government. No, Sir ; instead of putting his nation 



230 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

apprentice to commerce, he has other ideas in his head. My humble appre- 
hension is, that though in the tablet and volume of his mind there may be 
some marginal note about cashiering the King of Etruria,* yet, that the whole 
text is occupied with the destruction of this country. This is the first vision 
that breaks upon him through the gleam of the morning ; this is his last 
prayer at night, to whatever deity he addresses it, whether to Jupiter or 
Mahometjf to the goddess of battles, or the goddess of reason. J But, Sir, 
the only consolation is, that he is a great philosopher and philanthropist. I 
believe this hyper-philanthropy has done more harm than ever it did good. 
He has discovered that we all belong to the Western family. Sir, I confess 
I feel a sentiment of deep indignation, when I hear (I take it from report) 
that this scrap of nonsense was uttered to one of the most enlightened of the 
human race. To this family party I do not wish to belong. He may invite 
persons, if he please, to dinner, and, like Lord Petre, say that ' this tough 
crust is excellent mutton.' He may toss a sceptre to the King of Etruria 
to play with, and keep a rod to scourge him in the corner ; he may have 
thought at first his Cisalpine republic^ a fine growing child, and may have 
found it a rickety bantling ; but I feel contempt for all this mockery. Let 
us. Sir, abstain from invective, only let us speak the truth. Why, Sir, what 
I have said is nothing but the truth. Let us be visiting acquaintance, but I 
do implore him not to consider us as one of the family. Perhaps, Sir, it is 
unnecessary for me to state any more reasons for voting for this large peace 
establishment. All I desire is, not to have it understood that, in stating my 
fears, I speak from a well-informed judgment. On that account it is that I 
say, do not go to war ; on that account it is that I state my apprehensions as 
rational grounds for great vigilance, and for strong preparation. Sir, there 
are two other points pressed by several gentlemen, to which I beg leave to 
refer : I mean, the fitness of the persons in power, and the spirit of the 
people. The power of the country consists in its army, its navy, and its 
finance, in the talent and integrity of its ministers, and, above all, in the spirit 



* By the treaty of Luneville, concluded between Austria and France, on the 9th of 
February, 1801, Tuscany was taken from the Grand Duke Ferdinand of Austria, and 
given to Louis, son of the Duke of Parma, who had married a Pruicess of Spain, and 
who then assumed the title of King of Etruria. 

t On his invasion of Egypt, in 1798, he issued a proclamation in which he professed 
his respect for God, the Prophet, and the Koran. 

X In allusion to the establishment of the worship of the ' Goddess of Reason,' in 
1793, and the abolition of the Christian religion by the revolutionary government, in 
whose employment Napoleon then was. 

§ By the treaty of Campo Formio, in 1797, the Emperor of Austria acknowledged 
the independence of the Milanese and Mantuan states, under the name of the Cisalpine 
Kepublic, to which Buonaparte gave a constitution, on the model of France, himself 
appointing the members of the legislative committee and of the Directory, &c. In 
January, 1802, after signing the preliminaries of the peace of Amiens, Buonaparte 
procured himself to be appointed president, and proclaimed a new constitution. 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 231 

of the people. Upon this second branch of the question, though I have said 
some things which may be considered as grateful to that party which may be 
denominated the war party, yet I fear I shall be compelled to state by and by 
some circumstances that maj' not be quite so agreeable to them. It is a mat- 
ter of no importance to the house, perhaps, to know why I was absent on the 
two first days of the session. I was anxious to hear the part which men 
would take, and I do confess I never felt so much disgust at any circumstance, 
as to find, on the first day of the session, instead of a unanimous vote for 
vigilance and preparation, a call from some to give us back our places. The 
noble lord's friends may be divided into two classes : those who call for a 
change of ministers, and for war. And here I must say, Sir, for one, that 
I thank them for their frankness in stating what they have done, because their 
frankness is an antidote to the fury of their counsels. The noble lord says, 
' We do not want to go to war ; we only wish to have other persons in power ;' 
the noble lord deals with the ingenuousness of youth, as I say ; with the ex- 
perience of age, according to others. But what should we get by this change ? 
Would those persons he recommends have acted differently from the present 
ministers ? Would they have gone to war for any of the events that have 
occurred since the peace ? Would they have gone to war for the annexing 
of Piedmont to France? — for the Cisalpine republic? — for the invasion of 
Switzerland ?'^' No, for none of these. They would have done as Ministers 
have done, but more vigorously ; they would have shown more grumbling 
patience ; they would have made wry faces ; they would not have stood with 
their hands before them ; no, but with their arms akimbo. What would 
they have got by this ? Would they have obtained anything more by all this 
grudging and wincing ? Would such a mode of conduct have become the 
character and dignity of the country ? Sir, it is not to be inferred, because 
the right honourable gentleman opposite me did none of these things, that he 
felt no indignation. I learn from his Majesty's speech, every word of which I 
approve, that his ministers are determined not to be shut out of the continent. 
I say, Sir, I approve of the speech, because it satisfied me that a sense of 
wrong, and a resentment of injury, may live under moderate language. But 
these ministers, it seems, are the incapable gentlemen. Will gentlemen show 
us any act of base submission on their part ? If they can — if they prove that 
they did any act with respect to Switzerland, and meanly retracted it afterwards, 
I will be the first to inveigh against them. But these gentlemen show us no 
such acts ; they seem as if they considered the ministers, now the drudgery 
of signing the peace is done, as fundi oftciis, and as if they ought to go out ; 
as if one was a mere goose-quill, and the other a stick of sealing wax, which 
are done with, and ought to be thrown under the table. We know that 
Touchstone says, as a good ground for quarrel, ' that he don't like the cut of 

* The British government, on the appeal made to them for assistance by the Swiss 
patriotic party, despatched Mr. Moore, who had acted as private secretary to the Marquis 
Cornwallis on the occasion of the treaty at Amiens, to negotiate an arrangement, but 
all negotiation was useless in opposition to force. 



232 THE MODERN OKATOR. 

a certain courtier's beard.' Perhaps this capricious dislike cannot be better 
exemplified than by the sentiment expressed in the well-known epigram of 
Martial : — 

" * Non amo te, Sabidi, nee possum dicere quare, 
Hoc tantum possum dicere, non amo te !' 

The English parody may be more applicable to these gentlemen : — 

"« I do not like thee, Dr. Fell, 
The reason why I cannot tell ; 
But this, I'm sure, I know full well, " 
I do not like thee. Dr. Fell.' 

" It is fair, Sir, to say, that this English parody, so unfavourable to the 
doctor, proceeds from the mouth of a fair lady, who has privileges to like 
and dislike, which would ill become a member of this House, Sir, I con- 
tend that no solid reason has been offered to be urged against these 
Ministers. How, I would ask, has the right honourable gentleman forfeited 
the confidence of the people ? and why are we told that there is but one 
man alone who can save the country ? But it seems — and I must frankly 
confess that I was utterly astonished when I heard such an assertion made 
use of — that his Majesty's ministers assumed the reins of government at a 
most inviting period. Sir, I defy any man to show me a period of greater 
difficulty. The right honourable gentleman who, in the chair of this House, 
had so amply deserved and secured the respect of every member in it, could 
not but have quitted it with feelings of regret. But the expeditions to the 
Baltic* and to Egyptf were prepared; true. Yet, was success certain? 
Was it not the act of chance, and the great skill shown by the noble admiral 
(Nelson) that brought the expedition to the Baltic to a favourable issue ? 
Did the late Ministers conceal their fears with respect to the expedition to 
Egypt ? That it was most glorious in its event, and that the country ought 
to bind the brows of the meanest soldier engaged in it with laurels, I am 
ready to allow. But it cannot be denied that, after the expedition had been 
off the coast of Italy, and was in Marmorice Bay, orders were sent to stop 

* The expedition to the Baltic under Admiral Sir Hyde Parker and Vice- Admiral 
Nelson, in 1801. By a confederacy between France and Russia, an embargo was sud- 
denly laid on all English vessels in Russian ports ; and, in order to assert, as was said, 
the independence of the seas, and to destroy the immense trade of England, a conven- 
tion was signed between the northern powers, consisting of Russia, Sweden, and 
Denmark, by which they agreed to close their ports against British vessels and Prussia ; 
and the kingdoms of Naples and Portugal afterwards joined the confederacy. All 
attempts at arrangement having failed, the expedition under Sir H. Parker and Nelson 
was sent out, which, after completely destroying the Danish fleet in the celebrated 
battle of Copenhagen, caused the confederacy of the northern powers to be dissolved, 
and obtained terms of peace highly favourable to this country. 

t Under Sir Ralph Abercrombie, in March, 1801, on the occasion of Mr. Pitt refusing 
to ratify the treaty of El-Arish, which had been concluded by Sir Sydney Smith with 
General Kleber. 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 233 

the expedition altogether. With respect to the negotiations for peace, their 
predecessors knew that the present Ministers would have to deal with men 
who, it might be supposed, would be glad of an occasion to retort the inso- 
lence of Lord Grenville's letter. If the enemy had parodied their letter as 
their only answer to us ; if they had said, 'We will wait for experience and 
the evidence of facts with respect to the new Ministry ; ' if they had said, 
' Restore that old Whig constitution which the former ministers have so 
impaired,' we might have thought such conduct trifling, and beneath them, 
but we could not have questioned its fairness. Sir, though his Majesty's 
Ministers must have been prepared to expect humiliation, yet they made 
peace, I will venture to say, on terms comparatively more advantageous to 
the country than those that were offered at Lisle. ^' Of these Ministers, Sir, 
I know, also, that they have not renewed any of their predecessors' oppres- 
sive acts. But this, some gentlemen will contend, is a proof of their weak- 
ness and unfitness. Never, too. Sir, did the treasury interfere so little in the 
general election. This, again, may be advanced by some as an instance of 
their incapacity. Nay, the north was almost left to a member of the late 
administration. When, therefore, gentlemen talk in future of Mr. Pitt's 
being the fittest person to save the country they ought to add also the name 
of Mr. Dundas. But what did these gentlemen expect from the present 
Chancellor of the Exchequer ?f We treated him, when in the chair of this 
House, with the respect he merited. He has, I believe. Sir, over our present 
worthy speaker,! the advantage in attitude ; but did they expect that when 
he was Minister he was to stand up and call Europe to order ? Was he to 
send Mr. Colman, the serjeant-at-arms, to the Baltic, and order the northern 
powers to the bar of the House ? Was he to see the powers of Germany 
scrambling like members over the benches, and say, ' Gentlemen must take 
their places ' ? Was he expected to cast his eye to the Tuscan gallery, and 
exclaim, that ' strangers must withdraw ' ? Was he to stand across the 
Bhine, and say, ' The Germans to the right, and the French to the left ' ? If 
he could have done all these things, I, for one, should always vote that the 
Speaker of the House should be appointed the minister of the country. But 
the right honourable gentleman has done all that a reasonable man could ex- 
pect him to do. Sir, I confess I wish to know what Mr. Pitt himself thinks. 
I should be glad to hear what his sentiments are of the call made for him — 
and loudly made too — in another place by a vigorous statesman. I well 
remember. Sir, and so do we all, the character he gave of the present admin- 
istration. The justice of his character of the first Lord of the Adrairalty,§ 
no man can question. Of the accuracy of his judgment with respect to the 

* The negotiations for peace with France in 1797, at Lisle, went off, from the refusal 
of the French, plenipotentiaries to treat on terms of mutual compensation, and their 
insisting on the restitution of all that had been taken from the allies of France in the 
war, by which England would have had to make large concessions without any return. 

t Mr. Addington. X Sir John Mitford. § Lord St. Vincent. 



234 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

present Chancellor of the Exchequer, it does not become us to entertain a 
doubt. The noble Secretary of State^' was better qualified for the situation 
than any man in the country, with an exception made, I believe, in favour of 
my honourable friend (Mr. Fox) near me. Does Mr. Pitt mean to retract 
that character ? I cannot* suppose he does. I must believe that he left, in 
his judgment, the best administration that could be left. I have heard some 
gentlemen attach to the present ministry the appellation of a mawkish mix- 
ture ; but, if I were to compare them to anything, I should say, that Mr. Pitt 
and the Ex -secretary of War,f acted as men fond of wine (which I certainly 
do not mean to impute to them as a fault), and drinking a bottle of Tokay. 
Though you may take what appears to be the best, and leave only what seems 
to be the lees, yet, if you only pour a bottle of good white wine upon them, 
you have as good a bottle of Tokay as ever. Sir, I think the mixture as good 
and as wholesome to the constitution as it could have been. I am sure I 
hear with joy that it is not on account of ill health that the right honourable 
gentleman, to whom I have alluded, is absent. I repeat. Sir, when I see so 
many persons anxious about that gentleman, I am glad to hear that his health 
is re-established. But how, I would ask, can we, with any consistency, turn 
out the man who made the peace, to bring in the person who avowed his 
approbation of it ? Sir, it is since that peace was made that gentlemen 
had voted a statue to Mr. Pitt ; but, whenever they erect that statue let 
them cover it with laurels, so as not to show its nose ; yet, still a piece of the 
olive must go with it, for he approved and supported the peace. Sir, I can- 
not persuade myself to think he is playing a double game, or that he has 
retracted the opinion he delivered in this house ; but everything should stand 
plain, everything should be explicit. I have heard of one person playing two 
different games at chess for two different persons at the same time ; but I 
never heard of a person playing one of his hands against the other. I suspect, 
therefore, there has been some mistake in the telegraphic communication ; 
that the political Philidor's game has been misunderstood ; that his friends 
have displaced a knight and a castle, when they should only have taken two 
pawns ; that they have made an attempt to checkmate the king, when they 
had no instructions for doing it/f Sir, I cannot forget the period when the 

* Lord Hawkesbury. f Mr. Wyndham. 

X Mr. Pitt resigned office in 1801, in consequence of the opposition he met with in the 
cabinet to his measures for extending the political privileges of the Roman Catholics of 
Ireland, which, from his expressed sentiments on the subject, they were led to expect 
from him after the union of that country with England had been effected. The King 
particularly refused his assent to the proposed policy, considering that he was precluded 
by his coronation oath from sanctioning it. It has been suggested, that, besides the 
Catholic question, which was the sole cause of resignation assigned by Mr. Pitt himself, 
he might have been induced to allow the reins of government to devolve on others, in 
order that a peace with the Continent might, if possible, be arranged on terms more 
favourable than he and his party, from theii known hostility to the French government, 
would have been able to effect. Others have assigned a less charitable cause for his 
resignation, alleging that his only object was to throw the odium of refusal of the 



mCHARD ERINSLEY SHERIDAN. 235 

august personage of the sovereign was held up as the only man who was 
against extending privileges to the Catholics in Ireland ; and I cannot, there- 
fore, brook the idea of calling that right honourable gentleman back to power, 
and forcing him upon the Crown. I expected, when I came into this house, 
to hear much said against Buonaparte, but I had not the slightest expectation 
of hearing anything -against the prerogative of the Crown. Mr. Pitt, the only 
man to save the country ! No single man can save the country. If a nation 
depends only upon one man, it cannot, and, I will add, it does not, deserve 
to be saved ; it can only be done by the Parliament and the people. Sir, I 
say, therefore, I cannot believe that there is a back and a fore-door to this 
Egerian grotto. We have all heard, I dare say, of a classical exhibition in 
this town, the invisible girl."^- Here, however, I hope we shall have no 
whisperings backwards and forwards, no speaking through tubes, no invisible 
agency. I hope, too, that we shall have it declared, as it ought to be, that 
these opinions which have been rumoured about, are unfounded. I shall now 
address a few words to those gentlemen who would hurry us into war ; and 
here. Sir, I must say, that of all persons living, the Ex- secretary of War is 
the last man who can consistently call out for war. He despised the warn- 
ing voice of my honourable friend ; he turned a deaf ear to his predictions, 
that we should only consolidate and strengthen the power of France. His 
answers always were, he should despise the power of France, could he but 
see jacobinism destroyed. Is it not destroyed ? 

" * Approach thou like ihe rugged Russian bear, 
The armed rhinoceros, or the Hyrcaneau tiger — 
Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves 
Shall never tremble.' 

" The right honourable gentleman's wishes are gratified ; jacobinism is killed 
and gone, and by whom ? By him who no longer can be called the child and 
champion- of jacobinism — by Buonaparte, I remember to have heard jacob- 
inism compared to Anteeus, who gained strength at every throw : but 
Buonaparte proceeded like Hercules ; he gave it a true fraternal hug, and 
strangled it. Did the French annex Piedmont? Did they enter Switzerland 

expected Roman Catholic privileges on the shoulders of others, whom Mr. Pitt after- 
wards individually supported in their administration, while, at the same time his known 
constant supporters and partisans did all in their power to bring the new ministry into 
contempt, holding them up to the country as incapable ; and this double game was sup- 
posed to be played in order that when the object was obtained for which office had been 
yielded to them, they might be easily removed without the country at all regretting 
their loss. 

* This was an exhibition which, at the time, excited considerable curiosity. A girl, 
who was in a room adjoining the exhibition room, was enabled to answer all questions 
put to her by the public, by means of tin tubes, in which were inserted small mirrors at 
right angles which reflected every object in the exhibition room, so that, not only was 
the sound conveyed to her, but she was enabled to see every thing that was held up by 
the visitors, such as watches, &c. 



236 THE MODEHN ORATOR. 

with the Rights of Man ? Did they talk of those rights when Buonaparte 
told the people of Italy they were a set of dolts and drivellers, and were unfit 
to govern themselves ? But now the right honourable gentleman seems in 
a greater fright than ever. He seems as if he had rather have the old ghost 
back again. Most whimsically he wants to unite all parties against France — 

** Black spirits and white, 
Blue spirits and grey," 

all are welcome to him. The moderate jacobins he takes to his bosom ; they 
were only misled by their feelings. The violent jacobins he appeals to as 
men of proud spirits. He wishes to sing ' Cairo' to them, and to head them 
all. ' Oh ! had I,' he sighs, ' but plenty of jacobins here.' But, on what 
principle would they carry on the war ? If they were able to curtail the 
power of Buonaparte, would not their views increase, and would they ever 
stop without making an example of the regicide republic ? If they will speak 
out fairly, will they not confess this ? Will the country, then, for such a 
purpose consent to turn out the present Ministers ? Sir, upon the spirit of 
the country I wish to say a few words. I have heard from the noble lord 
with regret, what I hope was but a slip, that the spirit of the country is worn 
out. I think that noble lord must retract that idea. Sir, I certainly looked 
to the rejoicings at the peace as an unmanly and irrational exultation. Do I 
rebuke the people for rejoicing at the blessings of peace ? No, Sir, but for 
rejoicing without asking about the terms. Did they rejoice that we had 
gained Trinidad and Ceylon ?* Would two farthing candles have been burnt 
less had we not obtained them? No, Sir; if they had believed that they had 
been fighting for civilized order, morality, and religion ; and if, believing this, 
they exulted in such a peace, then it proves that their spirit was worn out. 
But I allude to this, in order that the enemy may not be led into a mistake 
upon the subject. Sir, one of the disadvantages attending the present ad- 
ministration is, that they will not turn, when they are attacked by the last 
administration. They are hampered by the votes they gave for the war. 
But from the period of the allegations that it was a war for the Scheldt, I 
assert that it continued to be a war upon false pretences. The people were 
told that it was a war for religion and good order, and they found that peace 
was ready to be made at Lisle, without any reference to those causes. The 
right honourable gentleman says, ' What baseness, while religion was in their 
mouths, to consent to steal a sugar island!' It is true. Sir, though it comes 
a little extraordinarily from that man who was one of the cabinet ministers 
at the time of the negotiation at Lisle. It should appear as if there had 
indeed been great discord in the cabinet ; ' there never was greater,' says the 
honourable gentleman. They acted not merely like men in a boat, rowing 
difi'erent ways, but like men in the boat of a balloon. Up the Ex-secretary 
of war was ascending to the clouds, whilst Mr. Dundas was opening the 

* By one of the provisions of the treaty of Amiens, England agreed to restore all 
her conquests during the war, except the islands of Trinidad and Ceylon. 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 237 

valve and letting out the gas to descend ; while one was throwing out ballast 
to mount to the most chivalrous heights, the other was attempting to let 
drop an anchor upon a West India island. Each of these ministers was 
suffered to have his favourite plan. The Ex-secretary of War was allowed 
to nibble at the coast of France, the War Secretary of State to make a descent 
upon a sugar island; and thus they went on till the letter from Lord 
Grenville — that letter never to be forgotten, and, I will add, never to be for- 
given — made its appearance, and the people took a deep and settled disgust. 
Why did this not appear ? And this, Sir, ought to be a lesson to us. The 
mouths of the people were shut and gagged, and the Government were acting 
without knowing anything of their circumstances. Sir, in such circum- 
stances, the integrity of their minds was disgusted, and they were glad to 
got rid of the war at any rate. Upon this subject I have dwelt the more 
particularly, because I wish Buonaparte not to mistake the cause of the joy 
of the people. He should know that if he commits any act of aggression 
against them, they will enter singly into the contest, rather than suffer any 
attack upon their honour and their independence. I shall proceed no further. 
I perfectly agree with my honourable friend, that war ought to be avoided, 
though he does not agree with me on the means best calculated to produce 
that effect. From any opinion he may express, I never differ but with the 
greatest reluctance. For him my affection, my esteem, and my attachment, 
are unbounded, and they will end only with my life. But, I think an im- 
portant lession is to be learnt from the arrogance of Buonaparte. He says 
* he is an instrument in the hands of Providence — an envoy of God.' He 
says ' he is an instrument in the hands of Providence to restore Switzerland 
to happiness, and to elevate Italy to splendour and importance.' Sir, I think 
he is an instrument in the hands of Providence to make the English love their 
constitution the better ; to cling to it with more fondness ; to hang round it 
with truer tenderness. Every man feels, when he returns from France, that 
he is coming from a dungeon to enjoy the light and life of British indepen- 
dence. Sir, whatever abuses exist, we shall still look with pride and pleasure 
upon the substantial blessings we still enjoy. I believe too, Sir, that he is 
an instrument in the hands of Providence to make us more liberal in our 
political differences, and to render us determined, with one hand and heart, 
to oppose any aggresions that may be made upon us. If that aggression be 
made my honourable friend will, I am sure, agree with me, that we ought to 
meet it with a spirit worthy of these islands ; that we ought to meet it 
with a conviction of the truth of this assertion, that the country which has 
achieved such greatness, has no retreat in littleness ; that if we could be con- 
tent to abandon everything, we should find no safety in poverty, no security 
in abject submission. Finally, Sir, that we ought to meet it with a fixed 
determination to perish in the same grave with the honour and independence 
of the country." 

The motion passed without a division. 



238 THE MODEHlSr OEATOE,. 

Speech in opposition to tlie motion of Mr. Pitt, for a Bill for raising and 
supporting an additional permanent military force. — 18th June, 1804. 

Mr. ^ddington had resigned office on the 12th May preceding, and had 
heen succeeded by Mr. Pitt. 

" To the arguments, Sir, v>'hich have been urged in support of the measure 
before the house, the right honourable gentleman (Mr. Addington) who has 
just sat down has given such a full and fair reply, that I do not think it 
necessary to enter into the subject as I had otherwise intended. The objec- 
tions to this bill have been so forcibly maintained by that right honourable 
gentleman, and he had put the subject upon such fair and constitutional 
grounds, that I should decline to trouble the house upon this occasion, if it 
were not for the observations of my right honourable friend (Mr. Canning), 
who has not confined himself to the bill under consideration, biit has thought 
proper to introduce matter not strictly relevant, but yet of infinitely more 
importance than the bill itself — I mean my right honourable friend's allusion 
to the degree of confidence to which the present administration is entitled. 
My. right honourable friend stated, that he was not disposed to adulation 
towards his right honourable friend who sits near him (Mr. Pitt), and for 
whom, no doubt, he entertains the most sincere respect and regard. I hope 
he will do me the justice to think, that I am equally incapable of adulation 
towards my right honourable friend on the same bench with me (Mr. Fox). 
I certainly am no flatterer, although, in point of attachment to my right hon- 
ourable friend, I will not yield to that which my right honourable friend on 
the opposite side can or does profess to feel for his right honourable friend 
beside him ; with this difierence, however, on my part, that my attachment 
to my right honourable friend on this side of the house is of a much longer 
standing — that it is the first, the strongest, and the only political attachment 
of my life. But my right honourable friend disclaims adulation towards his 
friend, and, indeed, he seems to me to have had no occasion to do so, for he 
certainly did not deal in it ; on the contrary, he has taken occasion to pro- 
nounce upon the conduct of his right honourable friend one of the bitterest 
satires that could be well imagined. My right honourable friend expresses 
his surprise, that we who oppose this bill can contrive to co-operate, and that 
we can avoid quarrelling when we get into the lobby ; but is it not equally, 
if not more a matter of surprise, that he can avoid quarrelling with some of 
his friends near him, to whom he has been so very lately in decided opposi- 
tion, and particularly with the noble lord,^' who appears now to have deter- 
mined which of the ' two strings' he should put to his bow ? [A laugh.] If 
my right honourable friend will look at those about him, he will find that the 
compliments and censures which he meant for the right honourable gentleman 
on the lower bench (Mr. Addington), were applicable also to some of his pre- 
sent connexions. Whatever praise or condemnation applies to the one, 

* Lord Castlereagh, President of the Board of Control, who retained the office he held 
under Mr. Addington. 



RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 239 

applies equally to the other, with this difference, that the compliment called 
forth by the retirement of the one from office, when the voice of Parliament 
and the country called for it, is not deserved by the other, who still remains 
in power/^' Some part of the administration of the right honourable gentle- 
man on the lower bench I most cordially approved, and his intentions in every 
instance I respected, because I firmly believed them to be pure and honour- 
able. I esteemed the motives which actuated his public conduct, because I 
was certain of his disposition, whatever might be the sentiments of some of 
his colleagues, to govern the country upon the principles of the constitution. 
I know that his acceptance of office was a sacrifice, and I feel that his retire- 
ment from it w^as a triumph. But did my right honourable friend, I would 
ask him, mean it as a compliment to the right honourable gentleman, that 
immediately upon his retirement from office, he started into an open, manly, 
and systematic opposition ; or did he mean it as an indirect sarcasm upon the 
conduct of his right honourable friend ? Did my right honourable friend 
mean to say, that when the right honourable gentleman resigned his situation, 
he did not offer an insidious support to his successor,! that he did not seat 
himself behind him for the purpose of availing himself of the first opportunity 
to push him out ? that when a motion of impeachment was made against his 
successor, he did not attempt to suspend the judgment of the question 
by the shabby, shallow, pretext of moving the previous question ? No ! 
such has not been the conduct of the right honourable gentleman, and the 
line he has pursued will be entitled to commendation. What are we to think, 
what can my right honourable friend say, of that course of proceeding which I 
have described ? a course which had nothing manly, consistent, or direct about 
it. In this conduct, however, my right honourable friend did not participate, 
and of course merits no part of the censure attached to it by every generous 
and liberal-minded man. My right honourable friend has given credit to the 
right honourable gentleman for retiring from office before he was forced out 
by actual opposition — for taking the hint from Parliament, j; If he be serious 
in pronouncing this laudable, what can he think of the six members of the 
late cabinet who still continue in office, w^ho consent to act with, and 
even subordinate to, the very right honourable gentleman who so lately 
treated them with contumely and contempt ? If the behaviour of the one 
be manly, how are we to estimate the other ? how are we to judge of the 
situation of that noble lord (Hawkesbury) whose conduct in office appears 
to have given such particular offence to my right honourable friend ? But I 

* Many members of Mr. Addington's administration retained office under Mr. Pitt. 
Thus, Lord Eldon continued chancellor ; Duke of Portland, president of the council ; 
the Earl of Westmoreland, lord privy seal ; Lord Castlereagh, president of the board 
of control ; and the Earl of Chatham, master-general of the ordnance. Lord Hawkes- 
bury removed from the foreign to the home department. 

t See page 234. 

X Mr. Addington retired on his being able only to command majorities of 52 and 
37, in large houses, and on ministerial measures. 



240 THE MODERiSr ORATOR. 

derive some consolation from the language of my right honourable friend, for 
as he applauds so much the act of the right honourable gentleman, in having 
resigned his oiRce when parliament and the country seemed to wish it, 
when he had in this house but a majority of thirty-seven, I have reason to 
hope, that as his right honourable friend had only a majority of twenty-eight 
on a former evening, which majority will, I think, be reduced this night, my 
right honourable friend will recommend to him an imitation of the gallant 
and dignified conduct of the right honourable gentleman on the lower 
bench — that he w^ill advise him not to persevere any further with such a 
mean, decreasing majority, after having lost the confidence of all the 
independent part of parliament and the country. My right honourable 
friend, indeed, states that he would wish to see an administration formed 
upon a broader scale, and in this declaration I really believe him sincere. 
If he considers what his right honourable friend now is, and what he 
might have been, I am pretty sure that such must be his wish. I am 
also sure that my right honourable friend delivers his real sentiment 
when he states that he feels himself in a post of danger. I believe that 
he considers the administration to which he belongs as not at all likely 
to last ; and I will go a step further — I believe that neither himself nor 
his right honourable friend really think that it ought to last ; for they must 
be aware that it is an arrangement which has excited discontent and com- 
plaint through every part of the country. It is an arrangement of such a 
nature that my right honourable friend thinks it necessary to offer 
something in the shape of an apology for the part he has taken in it. My 
right honourable friend has taken occasion, in some degree, to contrast his 
attachment to his right honourable friend at the head of administra- 
tion, with my attachment to my right honourable friend beside me ; but 
there is this difference between us, that I can never follow the same line 
as that which my right honourable friend has done this night, to excuse 
his acceptance of a high ofiice under the administration of his right 
honourable friend.* I do not feel it necessary to enter into any justification 
of my attachment to my right honourable friend ; for, although I do not 
find him holding one of the first offices in the government, I find him 
surrounded with honour ; although I do not find him leading a cabinet, I 
see him followed by all that is independent in the rank, character, con- 
sequence, and population of the country. I see him restored to the 
friendship of all those good and great men from whom he has, though 
he never ought to have, been separated ; or rather, I see those personages 
restored to him. In a word, I have the happiness to observe the public 
character of my right honourable friend placed on a more exalted eminence 
than it ever before stood on. An attachment to him, therefore, it cannot 
be any other than a source of the most gratifying pride to reflect upon. 
My right honourable friend, in the course of the justification which he 

* Mr. Canning was treasurer of the navy. 



KICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. 241 

has attempted for his conduct in co-operating with his right honourable 
friend, has dwelt a good deal upon the happy event of the removal of what 
he termed the late ministers, but my right honourable friend seemed to 
forget that that removal was far from being complete. To be sure, some 
of those with whom my right honourable friend professed to have been 
dissatisfied were removed. He was dissatisfied with the conduct of the 
department for foreign afiairs, and therefore out goes Lord Hawkesbury ; 
and sorry I am to perceive that that noble lord has put the seal to his own 
condemnation ; being charged with mismanagement and incapacity, he 
consents to be degraded in order to make room for another noble lord,* 
who certainly has yet to prove his ability, who has at least no experience 
to recommend him. This removal must no doubt be a source of much 
mortification to those who may be intimately connected with the noble 
lord : but this alone was not enough to satisfy my right honourable 
friend, and to reconcile him to the administration. He disliked the admi- 
ralty, and therefore that silly, incapable person. Earl St. Vincent, is 
removed ; and his place is filled by that tried, experienced seaman, Lord 
Melville. [A laugh.] In the ofiice of the war minister, also, my right 
honourable friend saw good ground for complaint, and therefore the noble 
lord (Hobart) who held that situation, is superseded by a noble lord who 
gallantly resigned the government of Ireland, because it was a time of 
war and trouble, and much disturbance was apprehended in that country. 
Under such circumstances, it is no wonder that my right honourable friend 
should express his regret that his right honourable friend has not better 
support; for all those being dismissed for detected, acknowledged inca- 
pacity, according to the language of my right honourable friend, of whom 
his right honourable friend spoke in such lofty terms of praise, none remain 
in office, but those six of whom his right honourable friend did not 
think worth while to utter one word in the way of commendation. But of 
the right honourable gentleman's praise much does not seem to be thought, 
and therefore it is, perhaps, that we have had no panegyric pronounced 
upon the qualifications of the persons just introduced into his cabinet. 
After the perfect knowledge of human nature which the right honourable 
gentleman has manifested, particularly in the expedition to Holland, and 
the representation with respect to some of the late ministers, his opinions 
of mankind do not appear to be held in any estimation, and therefore, no 
doubt, it is that the House has not heard one word from the right honour- 
able gentleman as to the merits of his new colleagues. 1 dare say that 
this silence was in consequence of a previous stipulation. They most 
probably said to the right honourable gentleman, ' You may give us 
ribands, titles, pensions, places, or anything you like, but a character : do^ 
for God's sake, save our names from the peril of your praise — for, if you 
praise us, both you and we shall be laughed at.' My right honourable 

* Lord Harrowby, secretary for foreign affairs, vice Lord Hawkesbury. 



242 THE MODERN ORATOE,. 

friend has frequently said, ' Away with the cant of " not men but 
measures," for it is a frivolous notion, as it is not the harness, but the 
horses, which draw the carriage ;' but I would ask my right honourable 
friend, what is to become of the harness and carriage with such horses as 
his right honourable friend has now engaged? There are six of them 
that are old, and six new^ — a double set, to be sure. The former are part 
of that ' slow-paced, lumpish, awkward collection,' upon which my right 
honourable friend so severely commented in the discussion of Colonel 
Patten's motion. They of course can be of no use, and so the six new- 
nags will have to draw not only the carriage, but those six heavy cast-off 
blacks along with it. [A laugh.] Now, if in such a situation my right 
honourable friend does not feel himself embarrassed, and anxious for the 
release of his right honourable friend and himself, he cannot have that 
feeling of dignity and solicitude for honourable reputation which I am 
willing to ascribe to him. Among the arguments advanced by my right 
honourable friend in favour of the bill before the House, there were some 
that struck me to be very extraordinary indeed. [Here Mr. Sheridan, 
searching for his notes, found they were lost, which produced a laugh, and 
the honourable member observed, that his right honourable friend, he dared 
say, was not sorry that he had lost them.] My right honourable friend, 
observed the honourable member, complains that we should express our 
disappointment that the measure before the house is not equal to the 
expectation we entertained, and states that from the number of troops 
already existing, it was impossible to draw more from the martial resources 
of the country than this bill proposes to obtain ; but my right honourable 
friend should recollect that the fault lies with those by whom our imagina- 
tions were raised so high. If we complain of disappointment^ who raised 
our expectations ? The right honourable gentleman, in the course of his 
opposition to the late minister, held forth such high promises — talked of 
what he would do if in office, that he would submit a measure of vast 
importance, &c. — that it was impossible not to have our curiosity and ex- 
pectations strongly excited ; but after all this prodigious parade of means 
in contemplation for the increase of our public force, what do we see.^ 
Instead of plans at all promising efficiency, instead of looking for an armed 
Minerva from the brain of this Jupiter, we see a puny, rickety bantling, 
which, after being sent to the parish nurse, does not appear to have gristle 
or bone ever to attain the age of manhood. In truth, I cannot suppose 
that the right honourable gentleman himself thinks that this bill will 
procure men. The only object seems to be to raise a tax upon the landed 
interest, to inflict penalties and enact forfeitures. The right honourable 
gentleman only proposes to levy a tax in a novel way. If, by such a system, 

* The six new members of the administration were Mr. Pitt, Lord Melville, first 
lord of the admiralty ; Lord Harrowby, secretary for foreign affairs ; Lord Mulgrave, 
chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster; and Sir Evan Nepean, chief secretary for 
Ireland. 



RICHABD BRINST.EY SHERIDAN. 243 

men should reall)^ be had, I am persuaded that the right honourable gentle- 
man would be more surprised than any other man in the country ; that he 
would feel as much astonished as he lately was at the wonderful discovery, 
that but few balloted men gave personal service. Even supposing that 
the proposed number of men could be recruited, where, I would ask, are 
six or seven thousand persons to be found qualified to officer them ? The 
right honourable gentleman must know that the thing is impossible* But 
the mode suggested to discipline those corps in really ludicrous. The idea 
of attaching one battalion to another is not unlike that of throwing a young 
woman in the way of an old man for the purpose of courtship, in the hope 
that, after the opportunity of what is commonly termed ' keeping company,' 
they will ' come together,' matrimony must be the consequence. Absurd 
as this may seem, it is not more so than that such a connexion as that 
proposed in this bill, between a battalion of regulars and one of the neW 
levies, can tend to promote or preserve discipline. It is ridiculous to talk 
of discipline in a corps where, as in the new levies, the officers will be urged 
to ask favours of their men. If a man belonging to the regulars shall be 
found tippling with any of the new levies, he can plead that he was endea- 
vouring to prevail on the other to enlist for general service — that he was 
only employed in endeavouring to forward the views of government. At 
such irregularities as these, officers must connive, or the enlistment from 
among those new levies will not be productive. From an army thus 
constituted and so employed, what evils are not to be apprehended ! So 
fully convinced am 1 of the mischief that must result from it as to think 
that, if the bill should be adopted, the most appropriate title for it would 
be ' a bill for the destruction of military discipline.' In considering the 
means of providing for the defence of the country, I am sorry to perceive 
that gentlemen, whose opinions upon other occasions I most sincerely 
respect, should look so much, or rather entirely, to the extension of our 
regular army. With respect to the army, however, I wish to observe, 
that in my opinion, men should be enlisted for that service not only on 
terms limited as to time, but as to place. The latter regulation would tend 
to save the lives of many soldiers, while the policy of the former is so 
generally acknowledged, and has been so often discussed, that the surprise 
is, that ministers hesitate to act upon it. Upon this question, as to the 
augmentation of our regular army, I cannot forbear to say, that I always 
look upon such augmentation with jealousy : I would not risk the liberties 
of the country, by the enlargement of our standing army. If I were asked 
whether I would not rather trust our defence in the field against the attack 
of a foreign foe to regular troops, I would immediately answer in the 
affirmative ; still, however, keeping in view the compromise between diffi- 
culties, the necessity of securing our freedom against the influence and 
power of a large standing army, I would have our volunteers and militia 
aided "by a due proportion of the regular army. The people of this country 
are competent to their own defence, and are ready to take the tone from 



244 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

those above them. They have regard for the high station which freemen 
may be supposed to feel ; they have none of the slavish attachment to clans, 
but they look up to their superiors — and I use this word in its liberal sense 
— they look up to you, their superiors, with confidence, because you do 
not look down on them with insult. Give, then, to such a people proper 
example and encouragement, and you will not have any occasion to look 
for a large standing army to defend your country. The people of England 
know the value of the objects for which they have to contend. They feel 
that, from the constitution of the Society in which they live, there is 
nothing of honour, emolument, or wealth, which is not within the reach of 
a man of merit. The landlord, the shopkeeper, or mechanic, must be 
sensible that he is contending not merely for what he possesses, but for 
everything of importance which the country contains ; and I would call on 
the humblest peasant to put forth his endeavours in the national struggle 
to defend his son's title to the great seal of England. Acting upon this 
plan, employing proper means to animate the country, would render it 
unnecessary to hire an army to defend us or to resist any enemy. It is 
because I am satisfied of this fact — because I know that in this important 
conjecture, which so strongly demands the valour of the brave, the vigour 
of the strong, the means of the wealthy, and the counsels of the wise, we 
could obtain all that is requisite by operating judiciously upon the charac- 
ter of the people, that I object to the frequent call for an increase of our 
regular army, as I know that such increase must invest the executive govern- 
ment with a power dangerous to the existence of liberty. I like an army 
of the people, because no people were ever found to commit a felo cle se 
upon their own liberty : but I dislike a large standing army, because I 
never knew popular liberty in any state long to survive such an establish- 
ment. It is upon these grounds that I disapprove of the sentiments so 
often urged as to the augmentation of the regular army, and particularly 
by an officer*' whose information upon military subjects is, no doubt, en- 
titled to the utmost respect ; but, whatever may be his information and 
experience upon military topics, if he had the ability of the Archduke 
Charles, until he shall look at the whole of the subject, until he shall 
examine it as a statesman, with a mixed attention to the rights of the 
people and the military defence of the country, I cannot defer to his 
opinions. With regard to the principles upon which the present adminis- 
tration is formed, I shall conclude with a few observations. The cause of 
the exclusion,! which is so much and so justly complained of, we are all 

* General Maitland. 
t Mr. Sheridan alluded to the exclusion of Mr. Fox from the administration. At 
the retirement of Mr. Addington, Mr. Pitt had deshed to have the co-operation 
of Mr. Fox, in forming a strong administration, so necessary at that critical period ; 
but through the personal antipathy of the King to Mr. Fox, this coalition was rendered 
impossible; and in consequence of his exclusion, Lord Grenville and his party refused 
to take office with Mr. Pitt. 



245 

tolerably well able to conjecture ; but it would be, I am aware, indecorous 
to describe it in this house. I know it would be unparliamentary to 
introduce into debate any particular allusion to this circumstance. Of the 
personage,* however, to whom it refers, I cannot speak from any particular 
knowledge ; but of him f who is next in rank and consequence, I can say, 
that that illustrious personage, whose name I know my duty too well to 
mention, who stood forward at the commencement of the war, displaying 
a noble example of his wish to promote unanimity, to rally all parties round 
the standard of the country, entertains no political prejudice against any 
public man — though, God knows, he has had much to forgive. Far, 
however, from indulging resentment, I am sure that he would be forward to 
accept, to call for the services of any political character who could contribute, 
in this great crisis, to the safety of the'empire. 

On a division, the motion was carried by 265 to 223. 



LIST 

OF 

MEMBERS OF THE ADMINISTRATIONS DURING THE 
REIGN OF GEORGE III. 



FIRST I^RDS OF THE TREA- CHANCELLORS OF THE EX- 
SURY. CHEQUER. 

1759. Dec. 22. T. H. Pelham, Duke of Newcastle .. Hon. H. B. Legge 

1761. Mar. 12. Do. do William, Viscount Barring ton 

1762. May 29. John, Earl of Bute Sir Francis Dashwood, Bart., 

afterwards Lord le Despenser 

1763. April 16. Hon. George GrenviUe . , . .Hon. George GrenviUe 

1765. July 13. Charles, Marquis of Rockingham . .William Dowdeswell, Esq. 

1766. Aug. 2. AugustusHenry, Duke of Grafton. .Hon. Charles Townsend 

1767. Sept. 12. Do. do William, Lord Mansfield 

1767. Dec. 1. Do. do Frederick, Lord North 

1768. Dec. 31. Do. do. Do. do. 
1770. Feb. 10. Frederick, Lord North Do. do. 

1773. Jan. 9. Do. do Do. do. 

1774. Mar. 12. Do. do Do. do. 

1777. June 5. Do. do. Do. do. 

1778. Dec. 14. Do. do Do. do. 

1780. Sept. 6. Do. do Do. do. 

1782. Mar. 27. Charles, Marquis of Rockingham . .Lord John Cavendish 
July 13. WilHam, Earl of Shelburne . . . .Hon. William Pitt 

1783. April 5. William Henry, Duke of Portland . . Lord John Cavendish 
Dec. 27. Right Hon. William Pitt .. .. Right Hon. William Pitt 

1786. Sept. 16. Do. Do. 



* King George the Third. 



t The Prince of Wales. 



246 

1789. Aprils. Right Hon. William Pitt .. Kiglit-Hon. William Pitt. 

1791. June 10. Do. Do. 

1793. June 20. Do. Do. 

1794. May. Do. Do. 

1797. July. Do. Do. 

1800. July. Do. Do. 

Nov. Do. Do. 

1801. Mar. 7. Right Hon. Henry Addington . .Right Hon. Henry Addington 

1802. July. Do Do. 

1804. May 12. Mr. Pitt Mr. Pitt 

1806. Feb. 3. Lord Grenville Lord Henry Petty 

1807. March. Duke of Portland Mr. Spencer Perceval 

1809. October. Mr> Perceval Mr. Perceval 

1812. June. Lord Liverpool Mr. Vansittart 

PRINCIPAL SECRETARIES OF STATE. 

1757. June 30. William Pitt, Esq., afterwards Earl of Chathatn 

1761. Mar. 25. John, Earl of Bute, vice Lord Holderness 
Oct. 9. Charles, Earl of Egremont, vice Mr. Pitt 

1762. May 29. Hon. G. Grenville, vice Lord Bute 

Oct. 14. George, Earl of Halifax, vice Mr. Grenville 

1763. Sept. 9. John, Earl of Sandwich, vice Lord Egremont 

1765. July 12. Augustus Henry, Duke of Grafton, vice Lord Halifax 

Hon. Henry Seymour Conway, vice Earl of Sandwich 

1766. May 23. Charles, Duke of Richmond, vice Duke of Grafton 
Aug. 2. William, Earl of Shelburne, vice Duke of Richmond 

1768. Jan. 20. Thomas, Viscount Weymouth, vice Hon. Henry Seymour Conway 
Wills, Earl of Hillsborough (Colonies) 
Thomas, Viscount Weymouth, vice Earl of Shelburne 
Oct. 21. William Henry, Earl of Rochford, vice Lord Weymouth 

1770. Dec. 19. William Henry, Earl of Rochford, vice Lord Weymouth 

1771. Jan. 22. John, Earl of Sandwich, vice Earl of Rochford 

George, Earl of Halifax, vice Earl of Sandwich 
June 12. Henry, Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire, vice Lord Halifax 

1772. Aug. 14. William, Earl of Dartmouth, vice Earl of Hillsborough (Colonies) 
1775. Nov. 10. Thomas, Viscount Weymouth, vice Lord Rochford 

Lord George Sackville Germaine, afterwards Viscount Sackville, 
vice Lord Dartmouth (Colonies) 
1779. Oct. 27. David, Viscount Stormont, vice Lord Suffolk 

Nov. 24. Wills, Earl of Hillsborough, vice Lord Weymouth 

1782. Feb. 24. W^elbore Ellis, Esq., vice Lord Germaine (Colonies) 
Mar. 27. William, Earl of Shelburne, vice Lord Stormont 

Hon. Charles James Fox, vice Lord Hillsborough 
July 13. Thomas Townsend, Esq., vice Mr. Fox 

Thomas, Lord Grantham, vice Lord Shelburne 

1783. April 2. Frederick, Lord North, vice Lord Grantham (Home) 

Hon. Charles James Fox, vice Mr. Townsend (Foreign) 
Dec. 19. George, Earl Temple, vice Mr. Fox (Foreign) 
Dec. 23. Thomas, Lord Sydney, vice Lord North (Home) 



247 





Dec. 23. 


1789. 


June. 


1791. 


June. 




May. 


1794. 


July 11. 




July. 


1801. 


February 



1804. 

1805. 
1806. 



March. 

July 30. 
May. 



Jan. 12. 
July 10. 
Feb. 3. 



1807. March. 



1809. October. 



1812. June. 



Francis, Marquis of Carmarthen, vice Earl Temp.e (Foreign) 
William Wyndham Grenville, Esq., vice Lord Sydney (Home) 
Right Hon. Henry Dundas (Home) 
Lord Grenville (Foreign) 
Duke of Portland (Home) 
Right Hon. Henry Dundas (AVar and Colonies) 
.Robert Banks, Lord Hawkesbury, afterwards Earl of Liverpool 

(Foreign) 
Robert, Lord Hobart, afterwards Earl of Buckinghamshire (War 

and Colonies) 
Thomas, Lord Pelham (Home) 
Lord Harrowby (Foreign) 
Lord Hawkesbury (Home) 
Earl Camden (Colonial) 
Lord Mulgrave (Foreign) 
Viscount Castlereagh (Colonial) 
Charles James Fox (Foreign) 
Earl Spencer (Home) 
W. Windham (Colonial) 
George Canning (Foreign) 
Lord Hawkesbury (Home) 
Viscount Castlereagh (Colonial) 
Marquis Wellesley (Foreign) 
Hon. Richard Ryder (Home) 
Lord Liverpool (Colonial and War) 
Viscount Castlereagh (Foreign) 
Viscount Sidmouth (Home) 
Earl Bathurst (Colonial) 



SECRET AltlES AT WAR. 

1760. Viscount Barrington 1784. Sir George Younge 

1761. C. Townshend 1794. W. Windham 
1763. AV. Ellis 1801. C. Yorke 



1765. Viscount Barrington 
1778. C. Jenkinson 

1782. J. Townshend 

Sir George Younge 

1783. Sir R. Fitzpatrick 



1803. C. Bathurst 

1804. William Dundas 

1806. R. Fitzpatrick 

1807. Sir James Pulkney 
1809. Lord Palmerston. 



TREASURERS OF THE NAVY. 



1760. George Grenville 
1762. Lord Barrington 
1765. Lord Howe 
1770. Sir G. Elliott 
1777. W. Ellis 

1782. J. Barre 
H. Dundas 

1783. C. Townshend 



1783. Henry Dundas 
1801. D. Ryder 

1803. G. Tierney 

1804. G. Canning 

1806. R. B. Sheridan 

1807. G. Rose 
1818. J. Robinson 



LORD HIGH CHANCELLORS. 
1757. Sir Robert Henley, K.t., Lord Keeper, created Lord Henley, 1760 

1764. Jan. 16. Ditto, made Lord Chancellor, and created Earl of NorthiBgton, 
May 19 



248 

1766. July 30. Charles, Lord Camden 

1770. Jan. 17. Hon. Charles York, created Lord Morden, died next day, and the 

Great Seal was then put in commission 

1771. Jan. 23. Henry, Lord Apsley,"afterward8 Earl Bathurst 
1778. June 2. Edward, Lord Thurlow 

1783. April 9. In commission 

Dec. 23. Edward, Lord Thurlow 

1792. June 15. Li commission 

1793. Jan. 28. Alexander, Lord Loughborough, created Earl of Rosslyn in 1801. 
1801. April 14. John, Lord Eldon 

1806. Feb. 7. LordErskine 

1807. April 1. Lord Eldon 



1788. 
1793. 
1799. 
1801. 



1802. 
1806. 
1807. 
1812. 
1813. 
1817. 
1819. 



ATTORNEY-GENERALS. 
July 1. Sir C. Pratt, afterwards 
Lord Camden 
Hon. Charles Yorke 
Sir Fletcher Norton, 
Kt., afterwards Lord 
Grantley 
Aug. 25. Hon. Charles Yorke 

William de Grey, after- 
wards Lord Walsing- 
ham 
Edward Thurlow, after- 
wards Lord Thurlow 
June 16. A. Wedderburn, after- 
wards Lord Lough- 
borough 
July 11. James Wallace, Esq. 
April 20. Lloyd Kenyon, Esq. 
May 6. James Wallace, Esq. 
John Lee, Esq. 
Lloyd Kenyon, Esq. 
R. Pepper Arden, Esq., 
afterwards Lord Al- 
vanley 
Sir A. Macdonald 
Sir John Scott 
Sir John Milford 
Sir Edward Law, after- 
wards Lord Ellenbo- 
rough 
Hon. Spencer Perceval 
Sir Arthur Pigot 
Sir Vicary Gibbs 
Sir T. Plumer 
Sir W. Garrow 
Sir Saml. Shepherd 
Sir Robert Gifford 



1757. 

1762. Jan. 25. 

1763. Dec. 16. 



1765. 
1766. 



1771. Jan. 23. 

1778. 



1780. 
1782. 
1783. 

Nov. 18. 

Dec. 26. 
1784. Mar. 30. 



SOLICITOR-GENERALS. 



June 28. 
Feb. 13. 

Feb. 21. 



April. 
Feb. 3. 
April. 
June 27. 
May 4. 
May. 



1756. Nov. 6. 
1761. Dec. 14. 
1763. Nov. 

1766. Aug. 

1767. Dec. 23. 

1770. March. 

1771. Jan. 23. 



1778. June 16. 
1780. Sept. 1. 

1782. April 20. 
July 20. 

1783. Nov. 18. 
Dec. 26. 

1784. April 7. 
1788. June 28. 



1793. Feb. 13. 



1799. 
1801. 
1802. April. 

1805. 

1806. Feb. 3. 

1807. April. 

1812. June 27. 

1813. May 4. 
1814. 

1817. May. 
1819. 



Hon. Charles Yorke 

Fletcher Norton, Esq. 

William de Grey, Esq. 

Edward Willes, Esq. 

Josh. Dunning, Esq. 

Edward Thurlow, Esq. 

Alexander Wedderburn, 
Esq., afterwards Lord 
Loughborough 

James Wallace, Esq. 

James Mansfield, Esq. 

John Lee, Esq. 

Richard Pepper Arden, 
Esq. 

James Mansfield, Esq. 

Richard Pepper Arden, 
Esq. 

Arch. Macdonald, Esq. 

Sir John Scott, after- 
wards Lord Eldon in 
1799 

Sir John Mitford, after- 
wards Lord Redes- 
dale 

Sir William Grant 

Hon. Spencer Perceval 

Sir Thomas Manners 
Sutton 

Sir Vicary Gibbs 

Sir Samuel Romilly 

Sir Thos. Plumer 

Sir Wm. Garrow 

Sir Robert Dallas 

Sir Saml. Shepherd 

Sir Robert Gifford 

Sir John Singleton 
Copley 



THE 



MODERN ORATOR. 



THE SPEECHES 



LORD ERSKINE 



LONDON : 

AYLOTT AND JONES, 8, PATERNOSTER ROW, 



AKD ALL BOOKSELLERS. 



1846. 



^/' 



INDEX 



SPEECHES OF THE RIGHT HON. LORD ERSKINE. 



PAOE 

On showing cause against a rule for an information against Captain Baillie, for 

libel. November 24, 1778 . . . 2o0 

In Defence of Lord George Gordon on his trial for High Treason. Feb. 5, 1781 264 
In support of a Rule for a New Trial of the indictment against the Dean of St. 

Asaph, for publishing a seditious libel. Nov. 15, 1784 . . . .298 

In defence of John Stockdale. Dec. 9, 1789 349 

In defence of John Frost. Hilary Term, 1793 376 

In defence of Thomas Hardy, indicted for High Treason. Nov. 1, 1794 . . 39^ 



SPEECHES OF LORD EESKINE. 



The Honourable Thomas Eeskine was the third and youngest son of 
Henry David, Earl of Buchan, and was born in Scotland, in 1750. In 1764, 
he entered the navy, but abandoned the service four years afterwards, and 
obtained a commission in the first regiment of foQt, which regiment he ac- 
companied to Minorca, from whence he returned to England in 1772. At the 
earnest desire of his mother, Mr. Erskine threw up his commission, and, apply- 
ing himself to the study of the law, became a member of Lincoln's Inn, and 
at the same time entered Trinity College, Cambridge, as a fellow- commoner, 
for the purpose of taking his degree, to which he was entitled by birth, and 
thereby reducing the number of terms required by the rules of the Inn, to be 
kept by students previously to being called to the bar. He diligently 
applied himself to his professional studies, in the chambers of Mr. Buller, one 
of the most celebrated spec^^al pleaders of the time ; and afterwards, on Mr. 
Buller being raised to the bench, he became the pupil of Mr. Wood. In 
Trinity term, 1778, Mr. Erskine was called to the bar, where fortune be- 
friended him, by affording him an early opportunity of distinguishing himself; 
and his rise was so peculiarly rapid, that, after being scarcely five years at the 
bar, a patent of precedence was granted to him on the suggestion of Lord 
Mansfield. In the same year (1783), he entered parliament as member for 
Portsmouth through the influence of Mr. Fox, in the room of Sir William 
Gordon, who was induced to resign his seat for the purpose of Mr. Erskine's 
return ; and shortly afterwards he received the appointment of Attorney- 
General to the Prince of Wales, but of which office he was shamefully de- 
prived in 1792 for his defence of Thomas Paine, against whom an information 
had been filed, for his violent attack on the government and constitution in 
his noted work called " The Rights of Man." As a reparation for this injus- 
tice, Mr. Erskine was appointed by the Prince of Wales, in 1802, Chancellor 
of the Duchy of Cornwall. During the administration of Mr. Addington, the 
office of Attorney- General to the King was offered to him, but he declined it 
in deference to the wishes of the Prince, at whose instance, according to Mr. 
Erskine's own account, he was in 1806 made Lord Chancellor, and created 
Baron Erskine, of Restormel Castle, in the county of Cornwall. In 1807 he 
went out of office on the dissolution of the ministry, and seldom afterwards 
appeared in public. He died on 17th November, 1823, at Almondale, near 
Edinburgh, and was buried at Uphall church. He was twice married, and 
had issue, three sons and five daughters, by his first wife. 

T 



250 THE MODERN OBATOR. 

The style of Lord Erskine's eloquence has been universally admired for its 
purity, simplicity, and energy, and its complete freedom from all vulgarism, 
and is regarded as the model of serious forensic oratory ; his addresses bear 
on them the stamp of sincerity and honesty, and to this may be in a great 
measure attributed his great influence and success with juries. 



Speech on showing cause against a Kule for an Information against 
Captain Baillie, for libel, 24th November, 1778. 

Captain Baillie, who was Lieutenant-Governor of Greenwich Hospital, 
considering that great abuses existed in the administration of the charity, and, 
amongst others, that those yrhose duty it was,'^from'the offices they filled, to ob- 
serve the due performance of the contracts for the supply of the hospital, were 
themselves interested in them, much to the prejudice of the charity, had on 
various occasions presented petitions on the subject to the Directors and Gover- 
nors of the hospital, and to the Lords of the Admiralty ; but finding that they 
received no attention, he, as a last resource, drew up a formal statement of 
the case, and caused it to be printed and distributed among the General 
Governors of the hospital. In this pamphlet, after setting forth the alleged 
grievance of the contracts being submitted to interested parties for approval, 
he complained bitterly of lucrative situations in the hospital (designed 
exclusively for seamen), being filled by landsmen, and insinuated that they 
were placed there by the Earl of Sandwich, the First Lord of the Admiralty, 
to serve his own election purposes ; and in the heat of his zeal for the expo- 
sure of what he considered as gross abuses, he severely reprobated the con- 
duct of many individuals by name, and, among the number, the First Lord of 
the Admiralty himself. There is no doubt that Captain Baillie was actuated 
by an honest desire to promote the interest of the charity, which he considered 
he was bound to protect, and not by any desire to prejudice the individuals 
of whom he complained, in the eyes of the public ; since, instead of publish- 
ing his pamphlet generally, he confined its circulation exclusively to the 
General Governors of the hospital, whose duty it was to investigate the 
charges preferred. Shortly after the appearance of the pamphlet, Captain Baillie 
was suspended from office, by the direction of the Board of Admiralty ; and 
the individuals who had been personally attacked applied, in Trinity term, 
1778, to the Court of King's Bench, for a rule for a criminal information for 
libel. This rule coming on for argument in the suoceeding Michaelmas term. 
Captain Baillie's leading counsel first addressed the court in opposition, on the 
23rd November, and the court having adjourned till the 24th, Mr. Erskine on 
that day rose from one of the back benches, and, continuing the argument 
against the rule, made the following speech. It may be observed, that Mr. 
Erskine had been only called to the bar on the last day of the preceding 
term, and it is believed that his speech on this occasion was the first he ever 
delivered in court. 



lORD ERSKINE, 251 

"' My Lord, 

" I am likewise of counsel for the author of this supposed libel ; and if the 
matter for consideration had been merely a question of private wrong, in 
which the interests of society were no further concerned than in the pro- 
tection of the innocent, I should have thought myself well justified, after 
the very able defence made by the learned gentlemen who have spoken 
before me, in sparing your lordship, already fatigued with the subject, and 
in leaving my client to the prosecutor's counsel and the judgment of the court. 

" But upon an occasion of this serious and dangerous complexion, when a 
British subject is brought before a court of justice only for having ventured 
to attack abuses, which owe their continuance to the danger of attacking 
them ; when, without any motives but benevolence, justice, and public spirit, 
he has ventured to attack them though supported by power, and in that de- 
partment, too, where it was the duty of his office to detect and expose them ; 
I cannot relinquish the high pTivilege of defending such a character ; — I will 
not give up even my small share of the honour of repelling and of exposing 
so odious a prosecution. 

" No man, my lord, respects more than I do the authority of the laws, and 
I trust I shall not let fall a single word to weaken the ground I mean to 
tread, by advancing propositions which shall oppose or even evade the 
strictest rules laid doWn by the court in questions of this nature. 

" Indeed, it would be as unnecessary as it would be indecent ; it will be 
sufficient for me to call your lordship's attention to the marked and striking 
difference between the writing before you, and I may venture to say almost 
every other, that has been the subject of argument on a rule for a criminal 
information. 

" The writings, or publications, which have been brought before this courts 
or before grand juries, as libels on individuals, have been attacks on the 
characters of private men, by writers stimulated sometimes by resentment, 
sometimes, perhaps, by a mistaken zeal ; or they have been severe and un- 
founded strictures on the characters of public men, proceeding from officious 
persons taking upon themselves the censorial office, without temperance or 
due information, and without any call of duty to examine into the particular 
department, of which they choose to become the voluntary guardians : — ^a 
guardianship which they generally content themselves with holding in a 
newspaper for two or three posts, and then, with a generosity which shines 
on all mankind alike, correct every department of the state, and find, at the 
end of their lucubrations, that they themselves are the only honest men in 
the community. When men of this description suffer, however we may be 
occasionally sorry for their misdirected zeal, it is impossible to argue against 
the law that censures them. 

" But I beseech your lordship to compare these men and their works, with 
my client, and the publication before the court. 

" Who is he ? — What is his duty? — What has he written? — To whom has he 
written ? — And what motive induced him to write ? 

T 2 



232 THE MODERlSr OKATOK. 

" He is Lieutenant-Governor of the Royal Hospital of Greenwich, — a palace 
built for the reception of aged and disabled men, who have maintained the 
empire of England on the seas, and into the offices and emoluments of which, 
by the express words of the charter,"^' as well as by the evident spirit of the 
nstitution, no landmen are to be admitted. 

'"'■ His duty — in the treble capacity of Lieutenant-Governor, Director, and 
a General Governor, is, in conjunction with others, to watch over the in- 
ternal economy of this sacred charity ; to see that the setting days of these 
brave and godlike men are spent in comfort and peace, and that the ample 
revenues, appropriated by this generous nation to their support, are not per- 
verted and misapplied. 

''''He has written, that this benevolent and politic institution has degenerated 
from the system established by its wise and munificent founders ; — that its 
governors consist indeed of a great number f of illustrious names and reverend 
characters, but whose different labours and destinations in the most important 
offices of civil life rendered a deputation indispensably necessary for the or- 
dinary government of the Hospital ; — that the difficulty of convening this 
splendid corporation had gradually brought the management of its affairs 
more particularly under the direction of the Admiralty ; — that a new charter 
has been surreptitiously obtained, in repugnance to the original institution, 
which enlarges and confirms that dependence ; — that the present First Lord 
of the Admiralty (who, for reasons sufficiently obvious, does not appear pub- 
licly in this prosecution) has, to serve the base and worthless purposes of 
corruption, introduced his prostituted freeholders of Huntingdon into places 
destined for the honest freeholders of the seas ; — that these men (among 
whom are the prosecutors) are not only landmen, in defiance of the charter, 
and wholly dependent on the Admiralty in their views and situations, but, 
to the reproach of all order and government, are sufiered to act as Directors 
and Officers of Greenwich, while they themselves hold the very subordinate 
offices, the control of which is the object of that direction ;% — and inferring 
from thence (as a general proposition) that men in such situations cannot, as 
human nature is constituted, act with that freedom and singleness which 
their duty requires, he justly attributes to these causes the grievances which 
his gallant brethren actually suffer, and which are the generous subject of 
his complaint. 

"He has written this, my lord, not to the public at large, which has no 
jurisdiction to reform the abuses he complains of ; but to those only whose 
express duty it is to hear and to correct them ; and I trust they will be 

* The words of the charter are — •' Provided that all officers to be employed in the said 
Hospital be seafaring men, or such who have lost their limbs or been otherwise disabled 
in the sea service." 

t Nearly 200 ; including the chief officers of State, the Archbishops of Canterbury 
and York, the Judges, Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London, and the principal public 
officers. 

X In allusion to the persons filling the offices of superintendents of the contracts for 
the supply of the Hospital being themselves interested therein. 



LORD EESKINE. 253 

solemnly heard and corrected. He has not published, but only distributed 
his book among the governors, to produce inquiry, and not to calumniate. 

" The motive ichich induced him to write, and to which I shall by and b}^ 
claim the more particular attention of the court, was to produce reformation 
— a reformation which it was his most pointed duty to attempt, which he 
has laboured with the most indefatigable zeal to accomplish, and against 
which every other channel was blocked up. 

" My lord, I will point to the proof of all this : I will show your lordship 
that it was his duty to investigate — that the abuses he has investigated do 
really exist, and arise from the ascribed causes — that he has presented them 
to a competent jurisdiction, and not to the public — and that he was under 
the indispensable necessity of taking the step he has done to save Greenwich 
Hospital from ruin. 

"Your lordship will observe, by this subdivision, that I do not wish to form 
a specious desultory defence : because, feeling that every link of such sub- 
division will in the investigation produce both law and fact in my favour, I 
have spread the subject open before the eye of the court, and invite the 
strictest scrutiny. Your lordship will likewise observe by this arrangement, 
that I mean to confine myself to the general lines of his defence ; the various 
affidavits have already been so ably and judiciously commented on by my 
learned leaders, to whom I am sure Captain Baillie must ever feel himself 
under the highest obligations, that my duty has become narrowed to the pro- 
vince of throwing his defence A\ithin the closest compass, that it may leave a 
distinct and decided impression. 

" And first, my lord, as to its being his particidar duty to inquire into the 
different matters which are the subject of his publication, and of the prose- 
cutors' complaint : I believe, my lords, I need say little on this head to 
convince your lordships, who are yourselves Governors of Greenwich 
Hospital, that the defendant, in the double capacity of Lieutenant-Governor 
and Director, is most indispensably bound to superintend everything that 
can affect the prosperity of the institution, either in internal economy or 
appropriation of revenue ; but I cannot help reading two copies of letters 
from the Admiralty in the year 1742 — I read them from the publication, 
because their authenticity is sworn to by the defendant in his afiSldavit — and 
I read them to show the sense of that board with regard to the right of 
inquiry and complaint in all officers of the Hospital, even in the departments 
not allotted to them by their commissions. 

*' ' To Sir John Jennings^ Gove7mor of Greenwich Hospital. 

"'Admiralty Office, April 19, 1742. 
" ' Sir, — The Directors of Greenwich Hospital having acquainted my Lords 
Commissioners of the Admiralty, upon complaint made to them that the men 
have been defrauded of part of their just allowance of broth and pease- 
soup, by the smallness of the pewter dishes, which, in their opinion, have 
been artificially beaten flat, and that there are other frauds and abuses 



254 THE MODEKN OKArOE. 

attending this affair, to the prejudice of the poor men ; I am commanded by 
their lordships to desire you to call the officers together in council, and to 
let them know, that their lordships think them very blameable for suffering 
such abuses to be practised, which could not have been done without their ex- 
treme indolence in not looking into the affairs of the Hospital ; that their 
own establishment in the Hospital is for the care and protection of the poor 
men, and that it is their duty to look daily into everything, and to remedy 
every disorder ; and not to discharge themselves by throwing it upon the 
imder-officers and servants ; and that their lordships, being determined to go 
to the bottom of this complaint, do charge them to find out and inform 
them at whose door the fraud ought to be laid, that their lordships may give 
such directions herein as they shall judge proper. 

" ' I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, 

"*Thos. Corbet.* 

" ' To Sir John Jennings, Governor of Greenwich Hospital, 

" ' Admiralty Office, May 7th, 1742. 

" ' Sir, — My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having referred to the 
Directors of Greenwich Hospital, the report made by yourself and officers of 
the said Hospital in council, dated the 23rd past, relating to the flatness of 
the pewter dishes made use of to hold the broth and pease-pottage served 
out to the pensioners ; the said Directors have returned hither a reply, a 
copy of which I am ordered to send you enclosed : they have herein set 
forth a fact which has a very fraudulent appearance, and it imports little by 
what means the dishes became shallow ; but if it be true, what they assert, 
that the dishes hold but little more than half the quantity they ought to do, 
the poor men must have been greatly injured ; and the allegations in the 
officers' report, that the pensioners have made no complaint, does rather 
aggravate their conduct, in suffering the men's patience to be so long 
imposed upon. 

" ' My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty do command me to express 
myself in such a manner as may show their wrath and displeasure at such a 
proceeding. You will please to communicate this to the officers of the 
house in council. 

" ' Their lordships do very well know that the Directors have no power but 
in the management of the revenue and estates of the Hospital, and in carrj^- 
ing on the works of the building, nor did they assume any on this occasion ; 
but their lordships shall always take well of them any informations that 
tend to rectify any mistakes or omissions whatsoever, concerning the state of 
the Hospital. 

" ' I am. Sir, your obedient servant, 

"'Thos. Corbet.' 

" From these passages it is plain, that the Admiralty then was sensible of 
the danger of abuses in so extensive an institution, that it encouraged com- 
plaints from all quarters, and instantly redressed them ; for although Cor- 



LORD ERSKINE. 255 

ffuption was not then an infant, yet the idea of making a job of Greenwich 
Hospital never entered her head ; and, indeed, if it had, she could hardly 
have found, at that time of day, a man with a heart callous enough to 
consent to such a scheme, or with forehead enough to carry it into public 
execution. 

" Secondly, my lord, that the abuses he has investigated do in truth exist, 
and arise from the ascribed causes. 

" And, at the word truth, I must pause a little to consider, how far it is 
a defence on a rule of this kind, and what evidence of the falsehood of the 
supposed libel the court expects from prosecutors, before it will allow the 
information to be filed, even where no affidavits are produced by the 
defendant in his exculpation.* 

"That a libel upon an individual is not the less so for being true,f I do not, 
under certain restrictions, deny to be law ; nor is it necessary for me to deny 
it, because this is not a complaint in the ordinary course of law,J but an 
application to the court to exert an eccentric, extraordinary, voluntary juris- 
diction, beyond the ordinary course of justice — a jurisdiction which, I am 
authorised from the best authority to say, this court will not exercise, unless 
the prosecutors come pure and unpolluted ; denying upon oath the truth of 
every word and sentence which they complain of as injurious : for although, 
in common cases, the matter may be not the less libellous because true, yet 
the court will not interfere by information, for guilty, or even equivocal 
characters, but will leave them to its ordinary process. If the court does 
not see palpable malice and falsehood on the part of the defendant, and clear 
innocence on the part of the prosecutor, it will not stir ; it will say, ' This 
may be a libel ; this may deserve punishment ; but go to a grand jury, or 
bring your actions : all men are equally entitled to the protection of the 
laws, but all men are not equally entitled to an extraordinary interposition 
and protection, beyond the common distributive forms of justice.' 

" This is the true constitutional doctrine of informations, and made a 

* A criminal information is a written suggestion of an offence committed, filed in 
the Court of Queen's Bench at the instance of an individual by the leave of the courts 
without the intervention of a grand jury. The court will not, therefore, give such 
leave, unless the party applying disclose fully, on affidavit, all the material facts of the 
case, and satisfy the court that a grand jury would, on such evidence, sanction an in- 
dictment if preferred ; and if the cause of the application for leave to file a criminal 
information be a libel on an individual, the court always require the prosecutor to deny 
the truth of the charge on oath. 

t In the case of an indictment for libel, the truth of the alleged libel could not, 
imtil very recently, have been set up in defence or mitigation of punishment. Now, 
by 6 and 7 Vic, cap. 96, sec. 6, on the trial of any indictment or information for a 
defamatory libel, the truth of the matters charged may be inquired into (if the 
defendant have pleaded as prescribed by this statute), but shall not amount to a 
defence, unless it was for the public benefit that the said matter charged should be 
published. 

X Indictment may be considered the ordinary mode, as distinguished from criminal 
information, the peculiar mode of prosecution. 



256 THE MODEEN ORATOK. 

strong impression upon me, when deKvered by your lordship in this court ; 
the occasion which produced it was of little consequence, but the principle 
was important. It was an information moved for by General Plasto against 
the printer of the ' Westminster Gazette,' for a libel published in his paper, 
charging that gentleman, among other things, with haVing been tried at the 
Old Bailey for a felony. The prosecutor's affidavit denied the charges 
generally as foul, scandalous, and false ; but did not traverse the aspersion I 
have just mentioned, as a substantive fact : upon which your lordship told the 
counsel,* who was too learned to argue against the objection, that the 
affidavit was defective in that particular, and should be amended before the 
court would even grant a rule to show cause. For although such general 
denial would be sufficient where the libellous matter consisted of scurrility, 
insinuation, general abuse, which is no otherwise traversable than by in- 
nuendos of the import of the scandal, and a denial of the truth of it, yet 
that when a libel consisted of direct and positive facts as charges, the court 
required substantive traverses of such facts in the affidavit, before it would 
interpose to take the matter from the cognisance of a grand jury. 

" This is the law of informations ; and by this touchstone I will try 
the prosecutors' affidavits, to show that they will fall of themselves, even 
without that body of evidence, -with which I can in a moment overwhelm 
them. 

" If the defendant be guilty of any crime at all, it is for writing this 
book : and the conclusion of his guilt or innocence must consequently 
depend on the scope and design of it, the general truth of it, and 
the necessity for writing it ; and this conclusion can no otherwise be 
drawn, than by taking the whole of it together. Your lordships will not 
shut your eyes, as these prosecutors expect, to the design and general truth 
of the book, and go entirely upon the insulated passages, culled out, and set 
heads and points in their wretched affidavits, without context, or even an 
attempt to unriddle or explain their sense, or bearing on the subject ; for, my 
lord, they have altogether omitted to traverse the scandalous facts them- 
selves, and have only laid hold of those warm animadversions which the 
recital of them naturally produced in the mind of an honest, zealous man, 
and which, besides, are in many places only conclusions di-a^svn from facts as 
general propositions, and not aspersions on them as individuals. And where 
the facts do come home to them as charges, not one of them is denied by 
the prosecutors. I assert, my lord, that in the Directors' whole affidavit 
(which I have read repeatedly, and with the greatest attention) there is not 
any one fact mentioned by the defendant, which is substantially denied ; and 
even when five or six strong and pointed charges are tacked to each other, 
to avoid meeting naked truth in the teeth, they are not even contradicted by 
the lump, but a general innuendo is pinned to them all ; — a mere illusory 
averment, that the facts mean to criminate them, and that they are not 
criminal ; but the facts themselves remain unattempted and untouched. 

* Mr. Dunning. 



LORD ERSKINE. 257 

" Thus, my lord, after reciting in their affidavit the charge of their 
shameful misconduct in renewing the contract with the Huntingdon butchers, 
who had just compounded the penalties incurred by the breach of a former 
contract, and, in that breach of contract, the breach of every principle of hu- 
manity, as well as of honesty ; — and the charge of putting improper objects 
of charity into the hospital, while the families of poor pensioners were ex- 
cluded, and starving ; — and of screening delinquents from inquii-y and punish- 
ment in a pointed and particular instance, and therefore traversable as a 
substantive fact ; yet, not only there is no such traverse, but, though all these 
matters are huddled together in a mass, there is not even a general denial ; 
but one loose innuendo, that the facts in the publication are stated with an 
intention of criminating the prosecutors, and that, as far as they tend to 
criminate them, they are false. 

" Will this meet the doctrine laid down by your lordship in the case of 
General Plasto ? Who can tell what they mean by criminality ? Perhaps 
they think neglect of duty not criminal ; perhaps they think corrupt servility 
to a patron not criminal ; and that if they do not actively promote abuses, 
the winking at them is not criminal. But I appeal to the court, whether the 
Directors' whole affidavit is not a cautious composition to avoid downright 
perjury, and yet a glaring absurdity on the face of it ; for since the facts are 
not traversed, the court must intend them to exist ; and if they do exist, they 
cannot but be criminal. The very existence of such abuses, in itself crimi- 
nates those whose offices are to prevent them from existing. Under the 
shelter of such qualifications of guilt, no man in trust could ever be crimi- 
nated. But at all events, my lord, since they seem to think that the facts may 
exist without their criminality — be it so : the defendant, then, does not wish 
to criminate them ; he wishes only for effectual inquiry and information, that 
there may be no longer any crimes, and consequently no criminality. But 
he trusts, in the mean time, and I likewise trust, that, while these facts do 
exist, the court will at least desire the prosecutors to clear themselves before 
the general council of governors, to whom the Avriting is addressed, and not be- 
fore any packed committee of directors appointed by a noble lord,"^ and then 
come back to the court acquitted of all criminality, or, according to the tech- 
nical phrase, with clean hands for protection. 

" Such are the merits of the affidavits exhibited by the Directors ; and the 
affidavits of the other persons are, without distinction, subject to the same 
observations. They are made up either of general propositions, converted 
into charges by ridiculous innuendos, or else of strings of distinct disjointed 
facts tied together, and explained by one general averment : and after all, the 
scandal, such as their arbitrary interpretation makes it, is still only denied 
with the old Jesuitical qualification of criminality, — the facts themselves re- 
maining untraversed, and even untouched. 

" They are, indeed, every way worthy of their authors ; — of Mr. Godby, 

* Meaning Lord Sandwich. 



258 THE MODERN OBATOR. 

the good steward, who, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the captain of 
the week, received for the pensioners such food as would be rejected by the 
idle vagrant poor, and endeavoured to tamper with the cook to conceal it ; — 
and of Mr. Ibbetson,* who converted their wards into apartments for himself, 
and the clerks of clerks, in the endless subordination of idleness ; a wretch, 
who has dared, with brutal inhumanity, to strike those aged men, who in 

their youth would have blasted him with a look. As to Mr. , and Mr. 

, though I think them reprehensible for joining in this prosecution, yet 

they are certainly respectable men, and not at all on a level with the rest, 
nor has the defendant so reduced them. These two, therefore, have in fact 
no cause of complaint, and, Heaven knows, the others have no title to 
complain. 

" In this enumeration of delinquents, the Rev. Mr. Cookef looks round, 
as if he thought I had forgotten him. He is mistaken ; — I well remembered 
him : but his infamy is worn threadbare : Mr. Murphy has already treated 
him with that ridicule which his folly, and Mr. Peckham with that invective 
which his wickedness, deserves. I shall therefore forbear to taint the ear of 
the court further with his name ; a name which would bring dishonour upon 
his country and its religion, if human nature were not happily compelled to 
bear the greater part of the disgrace, and to share it amongst mankind. 

" But these observations, my lord, are solely confined to the prosecutors' 
affidavits, and would, I think, be fatal to them, even if they stood uncontro- 
verted. But what mil the court say, when ours are opposed to them, where 
the truth of every part is sworn to by the defendant ? What will the court 
say to the collateral circumstances in support of them, where every material 
charge against the prosecutors is confirmed ? "What will it say to the affi- 
davit that has been made, that no man can come safely to support this 
injured officer ? — that men have been deprived of their places, and exposed 
to beggary and ruin, merely for giving evidence of abuses, which have already, 
by his exertions, been proved before your lordship at Guildhall, whilst he 
himself has been suspended as a beacon for prudence to stand aloof from, so 
that in this unconstitutional mode of trial, where the law will not lend its 
process to bring in truth by/orce, he might stand unprotected ,by the volun- 
tary oaths of the only persons who could witness for him }% His character 
has, indeed, in some measure, broke through all this malice : the love and 
veneration which his honest zeal has justly created, have enabled him to pro- 

* Secretary to the Directors, and first, or confidential clerk of the Admiralty, charged 
by Captain BailHe with reducing the pensioners' wards for the accommodation of him- 
self and his footmen. 

t One of the chaplains and a director of the hospital, and chaplain to the first Lord 
of the Admiralty. 

t In applying for a rule for a criminal information, the evidence, pro and con., is 
sustained by affidavits which the court cannot compel any person to make ; vs^hereas, in 
the case of indictments, the personal attendance of the witnesses to give their evidence 
viva voce before the grand jury may be compelled by subprena. 



LOUD EESKINE. 259 

duce the proofs which are filed in court ; but many have hung back, and one 
withdrew his affidavit, avowedly from the dread of persecution, even after it 
was sworn in court. Surely, my lord, this evidence of malice in the leading 
powers of the Hospital, would alone b e sufficient to destroy their testimony 
even when swearing collaterally to facts, in which they were not themselves 
interested ; — how much more when they come as prosecutors, stimulated by 
resentment, and with the hope of covering their patron's misdemeanours and 
their own, by turning the tables on the defendant, and prosecuting him crimi- 
nally, to stifle all necessary inquiry into the subject of his complaints ? 

" Lieutenant Gordon, the first Lieutenant of the Hospital, and the oldest 
officer in the navy ; Lieutenant William Lefevre ; Lieutenant Charles Lefevre, 
his son ; Alexander Moore ; Lieutenant William Ansell ; and Captain Allright, 
have all positively sworn, that a faction of landmen subsists in the Hospital, 
and that they do in their consciences believe, that the defendant drew upon 
himself the resentment of the prosecutors, from his activity in correcting this 
enormous abuse, and from his having restored the wards, that had been 
cruelly taken away from the poor old men ; — that on that just occasion 
the whole body of the pensioners surrounded the apartments of their gover- 
nor, to testify their gratitude with acclamations, which sailors never bestow 
but on men who deserve them. This simple and honest tribute was the sig- 
nal for all that has followed ; the leader of these unfortunate people was 
turned out of office ; and the affidavit of Charles Smith is filed in court, which, 
I thank my God, I have not been able to read without tears ; — ^how, indeed, 
could any man, — ^when he swears, that, for this cause alone, his place was 
taken from him; that he received his dismission when languishing with 
sickness in the infirmary, the consequence of which was, that his unfortunate 
wife, and several of his helpless, innocent children died in want and misery 
— the woman actually expiring at the gates of the hospital. That such 
wretches should escape chains and a dungeon, is a reproach to humanity, and 
to all order and government ; but that they should become prosecutors, is a 
degree of efirontery that would not be believed by any man, who did not ac- 
custom himself to observe the shameless scenes which the monstrous age we 
live in is every day producing. 

" I come now, my lord, to consider to whom he has written, — This book is 
not published. It was not printed for sale, butjfor the more commodious dis- 
tribution among the many persons who are called upon in duty to examine 
into its contents. If the defendant had written it to calumniate, he would 
have thrown it abroad among the multitude : but he swears he wrote it for 
the attainment of reformation, and therefore confined its circulation to the 
proper channel, till he saw it was received as a libel, and then he even dis- 
continued that distribution, and only showed it to his counsel to consider of 
a defence ; — and no better defence can be made, than that the publication 
was so limited. 

"My lord, a man cannot be guilty of a libel, who presents grievances 
before a competent jurisdiction, although the facts he presents should be false ; 



260 THE MODEHN ORATOR. 

he may, indeed, be indicted for a malicious prosecution, and even there, a pro- 
bable cause would protect him, but he can by no construction be considered 
as a libeller. 

" The case of Lake and King, in 1st Levinz, 240, but which is better re- 
ported in 1st Saunders, is directly in point ; it was an action for printing a 
petition to the members of a committee of parliament, charging the plaintiff 
with gross fraud in the execution of his office. I am aware that it was an 
action on the case, and not a criminal prosecution ; but I am prepared to 
show your lordship, that the precedent on that account makes the stronger 
for us. The truth of the matter, though part of the plea, was not the point 
in contest ; the justification was the presenting it to a proper jurisdiction, and 
printing it, as in this case, for more commodious distribution ; and it was 
first of all resolved by the court, that the delivery of the petition to all the 
members of the committee was justifiable ; — and that it was no libel, whether 
the matter contained were true or false, it being an appeal in a court of jus- 
tice,* and because the parties, to whom it was addressed, had jurisdiction to 
determine the matter ; — that the intention of the law in prohibiting libels 
was to restrain men from making themselves their own judges, instead of 
referring the matter to those whom the constitution had appointed to deter- 
mine it ; — and that to adjudge such reference to be a libel, would discourage 
men from making their inquuies with that freedom and readiness, which the 
law allows, and which the good of society requires. But it was objected, he 
could not justify the printing ; for, by that means, it was published to prin- 
ters and composers ; but it was answered, and resolved by the whole court, 
that the printing, with intent to distribute them among the members of the 
committee, was legal ; and that the making many copies by clerks, would 
have made the matter more public. I said, my lord, that this being an 
action on the case, and not an indictment or information, made the stronger 
for us ; and I said so, because the action on the case is to redress the party 
in damages, for the injury he has sustained as an individual, and which he- 
has a right to recover, unless the defendant can show that the matter is true, 
or, as in this case, whether true or false, that it is an appeal to justice. 
Now, my lord, if a defendant's right to appeal to justice could, in the case 
of Lake and King, repel a plaintiff's right to damages, although he was 
actually damnified by the appeal, how much more must it repel a criminal 
prosecution, which can be undertaken only for the sake of public justice, 
when the law says, it is for the benefit of public justice to make such appeal ? 
And that case went to protect even falsehood, and where the defendant was 
not particularly called upon in duty as an individual to animadvert : — how 
much more shall it protect us, who were bound to inquire, who have written 
nothing but truth, and who have addressed what we have written to a com- , 
petent jurisdiction ? 

* If the Hbel complained of be contained only in articles of the peace, or in some 
other regular proceeding in a court of justice, and not otherwise published, the defen- 
dant may give this in defence. 



LORD EKSKINE. 261 

" I come lastly, my lord, to the motives which induced him to write. 

" The government of Greenwich Hospital is divided into three departments: 
— the council ; the directors ; and the general governors : the defendant 
is a member of every one of these, and therefore his duty is universal. The 
council consists of the officers, whose duty it is to regulate the internal 
economy and discipline of the house, the hospital being, as it were, a large 
man of war, and the council its commanders ; and therefore, these men, even 
by the present mutilated charter, ought all to be seamen. Secondly, the 
directors, whose duty is merely to concern themselves with the appropria- 
tion of the revenue, in contracting for and superintending supplies, and in 
keeping up the structure of the hospital ; and lastly, the general court of 
governors, consisting of almost every man in the kingdom with a sounding 
name of office :— a mere nullity, on the members of which no blame of 
neglect can possibly be laid ; for the hospital might as well have been placed 
under the tuition of the fixed stars, as under so many illustrious persons, in 
different and distant departments. From the council, therefore, appeals and 
complaints formerly lay at the Admiralty, the directors having quite a 
separate duty, and, as I have shown the court, the Admiralty encouraged 
complaints of abuses, and redressed them. But since the administration of 
the present First Lord, the face of things has changed. I trust it will be ob- 
served, that I do not go out of the affidavit to seek to calumniate : my 
respect for the court would prevent me, though my respect for the said First 
Lord might not. But the very foundation of my client's defence depending 
on this matter, I must take the liberty to point it out to the court. 

•' The Admiralty having placed several landmen in the offices that form the 
council, a majority is often artificially secured there : and when abuses are 
too flagrant to be passed over in the face of day, they carry their appeal to 
the Directors, instead of the Admiralty, where, from the very nature of man, 
in a much more perfect state than the prosecutors, they are sure to be 
rejected or slurred over ; because these acting directors themselves are not 
only under the same influence with the complainants, but the subjects of the 
appeals are most frequently the fruits of their own active delinquencies, or at 
least the consequence of their own neglects. By this manoeuvre the Admi- 
ralty is secured from hearing complaints, and the First Lord, when any comes 
as formerly from an individual, answers with a perfect composure of muscle, 
that it is coram non judice ; — it does not come through the Directors. The 
defendant positively swears this to be true ; — ^he declares that, in the course 
of these meetings of the council, and of appeals to the Directors, he has been 
not only uniformly over-ruled, but insulted as governor in the execution of 
his duty ; and the truth of the abuses which have been the subject of these 
appeals, as well as the insults I have mentioned, are proved by whole volumes 
of affidavits filed in court, notwithstanding the numbers who have been 
deterred by persecution from standing forth as witnesses. 

" The defendant also himself solemnly swears this to be true. He swears, 
that his heart was big with the distresses of his brave brethren, and that his 



262 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

conscience called on him to give them vent ; that he often complained ; 
that he repeatedly ^vrote to, and waited on Lord Sandwich, without any effect, 
or prospect of effect ; and that at last, wearied with fruitless exertions, and 
disgusted with the insolence of corruption in the hospital, which hates him 
for his honesty, he applied to be sent, with all his wounds and infirmities, 
upon actual service again. The answer he received is worthy of observa- 
tion : the First Lord told him, in derision, that it would be the same thing 
everywhere else ; that he would see the same abuses in a ship ; and I do in 
my conscience believe he spoke the truth, as far as depended on himself, 

" "What, then, was the defendant to do under the treble capacity of lieute- 
nant-Governor, of director, and of general governor of the hospital ? My 
lord, there was no alternative but to prepare, as he did, the statement of 
the abuses for the other governors, or to sit silent, and let them continue. 
Had he chosen the last, he might have been caressed by the prosecutors, and 
still have continued the first inhabitant of a palace, with an easy independent 
fortune. But he preferred the dictates of honour, and he fulfilled them at 
the expense of being discarded, after forty years' gallant service, covered with 
wounds, and verging to old age. But he respected the laws while he ful- 
filled his duty ; his object was reformation, not reproach : he preferred a 
complaint, and stimulated a regular inquiry, but suspended the punishment 
of public shame till the guilt should be made manifest by a trial. He did 
not therefore puhlish, as their affidavits falsely assert, but only preferred a 
complaint by distribution of copies to the governors, which I have shown the 
court, by the authority of a solemn legal decision, is not a libel. 

"Such, my lords, is the case. The defendant, — not a disappointed mali- 
cious informer, prying into official abuses, because without office himself, 
but himself a man in office ; not troublesomely inquisitive into other men's 
departments, but conscientiously correcting his own ; doing it pursuant to 
the rules of law, and, what heightens the character, doing it at the risk of 
his office, from which the effrontery of power has already suspended him 
without proof of his guilt ; — a conduct not only unjust and illiberal, but 
highly disrespectful to this court, whose judges sit in the double capacity of 
ministers of the law, and governors of this sacred and abused institution. 
Indeed, Lord Sandwich has, in my mind, acted such a parte" 

[Lord Mansfield here interrupted Mr. Erskine in his address, observing 
that Lord Sandwich was not before the court.] 

" I know, that he is not formally before the court, but, for that very reason, 
/ will bring him before the court : he has placed these men in the front of the 
battle, in hopes to escape under their shelter, but I mil not join in battle 
with them : their vices, though screwed up to the highest pitch of hum.an 
depravity, are not of dignity enough to vindicate the combat with me. I will 
drag him to light, who is the dark mover behind this scene of iniquity. I 
assert, that the Earl of Sandwich has but one road to escape out of this bu- 
siness without pollution and disgrace : and that is, by publicly disavowing the 
acts of the prosecutors, and restoring Captain Baillie to his command. If he 
does this, then his offence will be no more than the too common one of 



LORD ERSKINE. 263 

having suffered his own personal interest to prevail over his public duty, in 
placing his voters in the hospital. But if, on the contrary, he continues to 
protect the prosecutors, in spite of the evidence of their guilt, which has 
excited the abhorrence of the numerous audience that crowd this court ; if he 
keeps this injured man suspended, or dares to turn that suspension into a 
removal, I shall then not scruple to declare him an accomplice in their guilt, 
a shameless oppressor, a disgrace to his rank, and a traitor to his trust. But 
as I should be very sorry that the fortune of my brave and honourable friend 
should depend either upon the exercise of Lord Sandwich's virtues, or the 
influence of his fears, I do most earnestly entreat the court to mark the ma- 
lignant object of this prosecution, and to defeat it. I beseech you, my 
lords, to consider, that even by discharging the rule, and with costs, the 
defendant is neither protected nor restored. I trust, therefore, your lord- 
ships Avill not rest satisfied with fulfilling your judicial duty, but, as the 
strongest evidence of foul abuses has, by accident, come collaterally before 
you, that you will protect a brave and public-spirited officer from the perse- 
cution this writing has brought upon him, and not sufier so dreadful an 
example to go abroad into the world, as the ruin of an upright man for having 
faithfully discharged his duty. 

" My lords, this matter is of the last importance. I speak not as an advo- 
cate alone — I speak to you as a man — as a member of a state whose very 
existence depends upon her naval strength. If a misgovernment were to fall 
upon Chelsea Hospital, to the ruin and discouragement of our army, it would 
be no doubt to be lamented, yet I should not think it fatal ; but if our fleets 
are to be crippled by the baneful influence of elections, we are lost indeed ! If 
the seaman, who, while he exposes his body to fatigues and dangers, looking 
forward to Greenwich as an asylum for infirmity and old age, sees the gates 
of it blocked up by corruption, and hears the riot and mirth of luxurious 
landmen drowning the groans and complaints of the wounded helpless com- 
panions of his glory, he will tempt the seas no more. The Admiralty may 
press Ms body, indeed, at the expense of humanity and the constitution, but 
they cannot press his mind — they cannot press the heroic ardour of a British 
sailor ; and instead of a fleet to carry terror all round the globe, the Admi- 
ralty may not much longer be able to amuse us with even the peaceable 
unsubstantial pageant of a review.* 

"Fine and imprisonment ! The man deserves a palace instead of a prison, 
who prevents the palace, built by the public bounty of his country, from 
being converted into a dungeon, and who sacriflces his own security to the 
interests of humanity and virtue. 

" And now, my lord, I have done ; but not without thanking your lord- 
ship for the very indulgent attention I have received, though in so late a 
stage of this business, and notwithstanding my great incapacity and inexpe- 
rience. I resign my client into your hands, and I resign him with a well- 
founded confidence and hope ; because that torrent of corruption, which has 

* In allusion to a naval review which had lately taken place at Portsmouth. 



264 THE MODERN OEATOE. 

unhappily overwhelmed every other part of the constitution, is, by the bless- 
ing of Providence, stopped here by the sacred independence of the judges. 
I know that your lordships will determine according to law ; and, therefore, 
if an information should be suffered to be filed, I shall bow to the sentence, 
and shall consider this meritorious publication to be indeed an offence against 
the laws of this country ; but then I shall not scruple to say, that it is high 
time for every honest man to remove himself from a country in which he 
can no longer do his duty to the public with safety; where cruelty and 
inhumanity are suffered to impeach virtue, and where vice passes through a 
court of justice unpunished and unreproved." 
The court discharged the rule. 



Speech in defence of Lord George Gordon, on his trial for high treason, 
5th February, 1781. 

On the passing of Sir George Saville's bill in 1778, for the relief of the 
English Roman Catholics from the penalties to which they were subject by 
the Act of 1699, it was projposed that in the next session of Parliament a 
similar Act should be passed for Scotland ; but the strong proofs given by the 
Scotch populace of their antipathy to the proposed measure, and the riots 
which broke out in Edinburgh and Glasgow, where many of the Roman 
Catholic chapels were destroyed by the mob in their fury, caused it to be 
abandoned. The religious excitement thus produced in Scotland, soon 
spread to England, and was much encouraged by Lord George Gordon, a 
man of a wild and enthusiastic disposition (brother of the Duke of Gordon 
and a member of the House of Commons), who allowed himself to be nomi- 
nated president of a society called the ' Protestant Association,' whose object 
was to procure, by all legal means in their power, a repeal of the late English 
Toleration Act. But, in large popular assemblies it is impossible to agitate 
religious questions in a temperate spirit: the real zeal for the protection of the 
Protestant church, which, Avithout doubt, actuated the original members, grew, 
as the numbers of the association increased, into a wild fanaticism : in a short 
time there were no less than eighty-five corresponding societies formed, 
nominally in defence of Protestantism, but which, there is every reason to 
believe, took advantage of the popular bigotry to league together under the 
cloak of Protestantism, for the furtherance of political and seditious objects. 
On 29th May, 1780, a large public meeting was held at Coachmakers' Hall, 
for the purpose of considering the best means of procuring a repeal of the 
obnoxious act ; on which occasion Lord George Gordon, who took the chair, 
made a most violent harangue against the Roman Catholics, insisting that 
Popery was spreading throughout the kingdom with frightful rapidity, and 
concluded by moving that on the following Friday the whole body of the 
Protestant Association should march in procession to the House of Com- 
mons with a petition, which he undertook to present, for the repeal of the 



LORD ERSKINE. 267 

act, but declared that, unless 20,000 men attended on the occasion, he would 
not present the petition. Accordingly, on the 2nd of June, upwards of 
40,000 persons assembled in St. George's fields, and, being divided into 
companies, marched in procession to the House, where they insulted many 
of the members whom they considered oj)posed to their vashes ; and, on Lord 
G. Gordon's motion, for taking their petition into immediate consideration, 
being rejected by a large majority, they conducted themselves in so riotous 
a manner that the military were obliged to be sent for to disperse them. 
On being thus driven from the Houses of Parliament, the mob, disappointed 
in their object, became tumultuous, and proceeded to destroy two Koman 
Catholic chapels, in Lincoln's Inn Fields and Golden- square, which they were 
allowed to do without interruption. Encouraged by this success, and lured 
on by the prospect of pillage, they were quickly joined by all the lowest 
dregs of the metropolis, and for four days London was at the mercy of an 
infui'iated and bigoted populace. Newgate prison became an early object of 
attack, and was speedily burnt and the prisoners released. Lord Mansfield's 
mansion, in Bloomsbury- square, was soon afterAvards destroyed, together with 
all the valuable manuscripts, library, and furniture it contained. On the 
night of the 7th of June, the scene was terrific: the prisons of the Fleet, 
King's Bench, and Bridewell, together with the distilleries in Holborn, and 
houses in all directions, were to be seen in flames; while the uproar in the 
streets, from the yells of the intoxicated mob and the discharges of musketry, 
added to the terror of the citizens. At length, order being restored by the 
military, although at the sacrifice of 285 lives, Lord George Gordon, as the 
author of the riots, was arrested for high treason, in levying war against the 
King, and committed to the Tower. His trial came on at the Old Bailey, on 
the 5th February, 1781, when Mr. Kenyon and Mr. Erskine appeared as 
counsel for the prisoner. After Mr. Kenyon had addressed the jury on the 
conclusion of the case for the prosecution, Mr. Erskine, his junior, would, in 
the usual course, have immediately followed; but he claimed the right, which 
was recognised by the court, of reserving his address until after the close of 
the evidence for the defence, which being concluded about midnight, Mr. 
Erskine rose, and delivered the following celebrated speech : — 

" Gentlemen of the Jury, 

" Mr. Kenyon having informed the Court that we propose to call no other 
witnesses, it is now my duty to address myself to you, as counsel for the noble 
prisoner at the bar, the whole evidence being closed ; — I use the word closed, 
because it is certainly not finished, since I have been obliged to leave the 
place in which I sat, to disentangle myself from the volumes of men's names, 
which lay there under -my feet, whose testimony, had it been necessary for 
the defence, would have confirmed all the facts that are already in evidence 
before you. 

" Gentlemen, I feel myself entitled to expect, both from you and from the 
Court, the greatest indulgence and attention ; — I am, indeed, a greater ob- 
ject of your compassion, than even my noble friend whom I am defending. 



268 THE MODEEX OBATOK. 

He rests secure in conscious innocence, und in the well-placed assurance, that 
it can suffer no stain in your hands ; — not so with me; I stand before you 
a troubled, I am afraid a guilty man, in having presumed to accept of the 
awful task which I am now called upon to perform^ — a task which my 
learned friend who spoke before me, though he has justly risen, by 
extraordinary capacity and experience, to the highest rank in his pro- 
fession, has spoken of with that distrust and diffidence, which becomes every 
Christian in a cause of blood. If Mr. Kenyon has such feelings, think what 
mine must be. Alas ! Gentlemen, who am I ? A young man of little experi- 
ence, unused to the bar of crimmal courts, and sinking under the dreadful 
consciousness of my defects. I have, however, this consolation, that no igno- 
rance nor inattention on my part can possibly prevent you from seeing, under 
the du'ection of the Judges, that the Crown has established no case of treason. 

" Gentlemen, I did expect that the Attorney- General, in opening a great 
and solemn state prosecution, would have at least indulged the advocates for 
the prisoner with his notions on the law, as applied to the case before you, 
in less general terms. It is very common mdeed, in little civil actions, to 
make such obscure introductions by way of trap ; but in criminal cases, it is 
unusual and unbecoming ; because the right of the Crown to reply, even where 
no witnesses are called by the prisoner, gives it thereby the advantage of re- 
pljdng, without having given scope for observations on the principles of the 
opening, with which the reply must be consistent. 

" One observation he has, however, made on the subject, in the truth of 
which I heartily concur, viz., That the crime, of which the noble person at 
your bar stands accused, is the very highest and most atrocious that a mem- 
ber of civil life can possibly commit ; because it is not, like all other crimes, 
merely an injury to society from the breach of some of its reciprocal relations, 
but is an attempt utterly to dissolve and destroy society altogether. 

" In nothing, therefore, is the wisdom and justice of our laws so strongly and 
eminently manifested as in the rigid, accurate, cautious, explicit, unequivocal 
definition of what shall constitute this high offence ; — for, high treason con- 
sisting in the breach and dissolution of that allegiance which binds society 
together, if it were left ambiguous, uncertain, or undefined, all the other laws 
established for the personal security of the subject would be utterly useless; 
since this offence, which, from its nature, is so capable of being created and 
and judged of by the rules of political expediency on the spur of the occasion, 
would be a rod at will to bruise the most virtuous members of the community, 
vrhenever virtue might become troublesome or obnoxious to a bad government. 

" Injuries to the persons and properties of our neighbours, considered as 
individuals, which are the subjects of all other criminal prosecutions, are not 
only capable of greater precision, but the powers of the state can be but 
rarely interested in straining them beyond their legal interpretation ; but if 
Treason, where the government is directly offended, were left to the judgment 
of its ministers, mthout any boundaries,— nay, without the most broad, dis- 
tinct, and inviolable boundaries marked out bv Law, — there could be no 



LOUD EUSICINE. 269 

public freedom, and the condition of an Englishman would be no better 
than a slave's at the foot of a Sultan ; since there is little difference whether 
a man dies by the stroke of a sabre, without the forms of a trial, or by the 
most pompous ceremonies of justice, if the crime could be made at pleasure 
by the state to fit the fact that was to be tried. 

" Would to God, Gentlemen of the Jury, that this were an observation of 
theory alone, and that the page of our history was not blotted with so many 
melancholy, disgraceful proofs of its truth ; but these proofs, melancholy and 
disgraceful as they are, have become glorious monuments of the wisdom of 
our fathers, and ought to be a theme of rejoicing and emulation to us. For 
from the mischiefs constantly arising to the state from every extension of the 
ancient law of treason, the ancient law of treason has been always restored, 
and the constitution at different periods washed clean ; though, unhappily, with 
the blood of oppressed and innocent men. 

"When I speak of the ancient law of treason, I m^eas. the venerable statute 
of King Edward the Thu'd,"^' on Avhich the indictment you are now trying is 
framed; — a statute made, as its preamble sets forth, for the more precise 
definition of this crime, which had not, by the common law, been sufficiently 
explained ; and consisting of different and distinct members, the plain unex- 
tended letter of which was thought to be a sufficient protection to the person 
and honour of the Sovereign, and an adequate security to the laws committed 
to his execution. I shall mention only two of the number, the others not 
being in the remotest degree applicable to the present accusation. 

" To comjjass, or imagine^ the death of the King ; such imagination, or purpose 
of the mind (visible only to its great Author), being manifested by some open 
act ; an institution obviously directed, not only to the security of his natural 
person, but to the stability of the government ; the life of the prince being so 
interwoven with the constitution of the state, that an attempt to destroy the 
one, is justly held to be a rebellious conspiracy against the other. 

" Secondly, which is the crime charged in. the indictment. To levy war against 
him in his realm ; — a term that one woiild think could require no explanation, 
nor admit of any ambiguous construction, amongst men who are willing to 
read laws according to the plain signification of the language in which they 
are ^vritten ; but which has, nevertheless, been an abundant source of that 
constructive cavil, which this sacred and valuable act was made expressly to 

* This Statute (25 Edw. III., st. 5, c. 2.) enacts and declares "That if a person doth 
compass or imagine the death of the King, Queen, or their eldest son and heir, or if he vio- 
late and deflower the King's wife, or companion, or eldest daughter unmarried, or the 
wife of the Kir g's eldest son, or if he levy war against the King in his realm, or adhere to 
his enemies, give them aid and comfort in his realm or elsewhere, and thereof be probably 
(or proveably) attainted of open deed; and if a man counterfeit the King's great or 
privy Seal, or his money, or bring false money into the kingdom like to the money of 
England to make payment therewith in deceit of the King and his people ; or if he kill 
the Chancellor, Treasurer, or any of the King's justices in either bench, Justices 
of Assize, &c., being in their places doing their offices ; these cases are to be adjudged 
Treason," 

V 2 



270 THE MODEHN OEATOE. 

prevent. The real meaning of this branch of it, as it is bottomed in policy, 
reason, and justice, — as it is ordained in plain unambiguous words, — as it is 
confirmed by the precedents of justice, and illustrated by the writings of the 
great lights of the law in different ages of our history, — I shall, before I sit 
down, impress upon your minds as a safe, unerring standard by which to 
measure the evidence you have heard. At present I shall only say, that far 
and wide as judicial decisions have strained the construction of levying war, 
beyond the warrant of the statute, to the discontent of some of the greatest 
ornaments of the profession, they hurt not me ; — as a citizen I may disapprove 
of them, but as advocate for the noble person at your bar, I need not im- 
peach their authority ; because none of them have said more than this — that 
war maybe levied against the King in his realm, not only by an insurrection 
to change or to destroy the fundamental constitution of the government itself 
by rebellious war, but, by the same war, to endeavour to suppress the execu- 
tion of the laws it has enacted, or to violate and overbear the protection they 
afford, not to individuals (which is a private wrong), but to any general class 
or description of the community, by premeditated open acts of violence, hostility, 
and force. 

"Gentlemen, I repeat these words, and call solemnly on the Judges to attend ' 
to what I say, and to contradict me if I mistake the law, — by premeditated, 
open acts of violence, hostility, and force — nothing equivocal — nothing ambi- 
guous — no intimidations, or overawings, which signify nothing precise or 
certain, because what frightens one man, or set of men, may have no effect 
upon another ; but that which compels and coerces — open violence and force. 

" Gentlemen, this is not only the whole text, but, I submit it to the learned 
Judges, under whose correction I am happy to speak, an accurate explanation 
of the statute of treason, as far as it relates to the present subject, taken in its 
utmost extent of judicial construction, and which you cannot but see, not only 
in its letter, but in its most strained signification, is confined to acts which 
immediately, openly, and unambiguously, strike at the very root and being of 
government, and not to any other offences, however injurious to its peace. 

" Such were the boundaries of high treasonmarked out in the reign of Edward 
the Third ; and as often as the vices of bad princes, assisted by weak submis- 
sive parliaments, extended state ofiences beyond the strict letter of that act, 
so often the virtue of better princes and wiser parliaments brought them back 
again. 

" A long list of new treasons, accumulated in the wretched reign of Richard 
the Second, from which (to use the language of the act that repealed them) 
'no man knew what to do or say for doubt of the pains of death,' were swept 
away in the first year of Henry the Fourth, his successor ; and many more, 
Vvrhich had again sprung up in the following distracted arbitrary reigns, putting 
tumults and riots on a footing v/ith armed rebellion, were again levelled in the 
first 3^ear of Queen Mary, and the statute of Edward made once more the 
standard of treasons. The acts, indeed, for securing his present Majesty's 
i^ustrious house from the machinations of those very Papists, who are now so 



LOED EESKINE. 27l 

highlyin favour, have, since that time, been added to the list; but thesenot being 
applicable to the present case, the ancient statute is still our only guide ; which 
is so plain and simple in its object, so explicit and correct in its terms, as to leave 
no room for intrinsic error ; and the wisdom of its authors has shut the door 
against all extension of its plain letter ; declaring, in the very body of the act 
itself, that nothing out of that plain letter should be brought within the pale 
of treason by inference or construction, but that, if any such cases happened, 
they should be referred to the Parliament. 

" This wise restriction has been the subject of much just eulogium by all the 
most celebrated writers on the criminal law of England. Lord Coke says, 
the Parliament that made it was, on that account, called Benedictum^ or 
Blessed : and the learned and virtuous Judge Hale, a bitter enemy and opposer 
of constructive treason, speaks of this sacred institution with that enthusiasm, 
which it cannot but inspire in the breast of every lover of the just privileges 
of mankind. 

"Gentlemen, in these mild days, when juries are so free, and judges so 
independent, perhaps all these observations might have been spared as unne- 
cessary ; — but they can do no harm ; and this history of treason, so honourable 
to England, cannot (even imperfectly as I have given it) be unpleasant to Eng- 
lishmen. At all events, it cannot be thought an inapplicable introduction to 
saying, that Lord George Gordon, who stands before you indicted for that 
crime, is not — cannot be guilty of it, unless he has levied war against the 
King in his realm, contrary to the plain letter, spirit, and intention of the act 
of the twenty-fifth of Edward the Third ; to be extended by no new or occa- 
sional constructions, — to be strained by no fancied analogies, — to be measured 
by no rules of political expediency, — to be judged of by no theory, — to be 
determined by the wisdom of no individual, however wise, — but to be ex- 
pounded by the simple, genuine letter of the law. 

" Gentlemen, the only overt act charged in the indictment is — the assem- 
bling the multitude, which we all of us remember went up with the petition 
of the associated Protestants on the second day of last June ; and, in address- 
ing myself to a humane and sensible jury of Englishmen, sitting in judgment 
on the life of a fellow-citizen, more especially under the direction of a Court 
so filled as this is, I trust I need not remind you, that the purposes of that 
multitude, as originally assembled on that day, and the purposes and acts of 
him who assembled them, are the sole objects of investigation ; and that all 
the dismal consequences which followed, and which naturally link themselves 
with this subject in the firmest minds, must be altogether cut oif, and ab- 
stracted from your attention, — further than the evidence warrants their 
admission. Indeed, if the evidence had been co-extensive with these conse- 
quences ; if it had been proved that the same multitude, under the direction 
of Lord George Gordon, had afterwards attacked the Bank, broke open the 
prisons, and set London in a conflagration, I should not now be addressing 
you. Do me the justice to believe, that I am neither so foolish as to imagine I 
could have defended him, nor so profligate to wish it if I could. But when 



272 THE MODEB.X OEATOE. 

it has appeared, not only by the evidence in the cause, but by the evidence of 
the thing itself, — by the issues of life, v^^hich may be called the evidence of 
Heaven, that these dreadful events were either entirely unconnected with the 
assembling of that multitude to attend the petition of the Protestants, or, at 
the very worst, the unforeseen, undesigned, unabetted, and deeply regretted 
consequences of it, I confess the seriousness and solemnity of this trial sink 
and dwindle away. Only abstract from your minds all that misfortune, acci- 
dent, and the wickedness of others have brought upon the scene, and the 
cause requires no advocate. When I say that it requires no advocate, I mean 
that it requires no argument to screen it from the guilt of treason. For though 
I am perfectly convinced of the purity of my noble friend's intentions, yet I 
am not bound to defend his prudence, nor to set it up as a pattern for imitation ; 
since you are not trying him for imprudence, for indiscreet zeal, or for want 
of foresight and precaution, but for a deliberate and malicious predetermi- 
nation to overpower the laws and government of his country, by hostile, 
rebellious force. 

" The indictment, therefore, first charges, that the multitude, assembled on 
the 2nd of June, ' were armed and arrayed in a warlike manner : ' which, in- 
deed, if it had omitted to charge, we should not have troubled you with any 
defence at all, because no judgment could have been given on so defective 
an indictment ; for the statute never meant to put an unarmed assembly 
of citizens on a footing with armed rebellion ; and the crime, whatever it 
is, must always appear on the record to warrant the judgment of the Court. 

" It is certainly true, that it has been held to be matter of evidence, and 
dependent on circumstances, what numbers, or species of equipment and order, 
though not the regular equipment and order of soldiers, shall constitute an 
army, so as to maintain the averment in the indictment of a warlike array ; 
and likewise, what kind of violence, though not pointed at the King's person, 
or the existence of the government, shall be construed to be war against the 
King, But as it has never yet been maintained in argument, in any court of 
the kingdom, or even speculated upon in theory, that a multitude, without 
either weapons offensive or defensive of any sort or kind, and yet not supply- 
ing the want of them by such acts of violence as multitudes sufficiently great 
can achieve without them, was a hostile army within the statute ;— -as it has 
never been asserted by the wildest adventurer in constructive treason, that a 
multitude, armed with nothing, threatening nothing, and doing nothing, 
was an army levying war ; I am entitled to say, that the evidence does not 
support the first charge in the indictment ; but that, on the contrary, it is 
manifestly false — false in the knowledge of the Crown, which prosecutes it — 
false in the knovv^ledge of every man in London, who was not bed-ridden 
on Friday the 2nd of June, and who saw the peaceable demeanour of the 
associated Protestants. 

" But you will hear, no doubt, from the Solicitor-General (for they have 
saved all their intelligence for the reply) that fury supplies arms ;— furor arma 



I/OED EESKINE. 273 

ministrat ; — and the case of Damaree * will, I suppose, be referred to ; where 
the people assembled had no banners or arms, but only clubs and bludgeons : 
yet the ringleader, who led them on to mischief, was adjudged to be guilty 
of high treason for levying war. This judgment it is not my purpose to im- 
peach, for I have no time for digression to points that do not press upon me. In 
the case of Damaree, the mob, though not regularly armed, were provided with 
such weapons as best suited their mischievous designs : their designs were, 
besides, open and avowed, and all the mischief was done that could have been 
accomplished, if they had been in the completest armour : — they burnt Dissent- 
ing meeting-houses protected by law, and Damaree was taken at their headj 
in flagrante delicto, with a torch in his hand, not only in the very act of de- 
stroying one of them, but leading on his followers, in person, to the avowed 
destruction of all the rest. There could, therefore, be no doubt of his purpose 
and intention, nor any great doubt that the perpretation of such purpose was, 
from its generality, high treason, if perpretated by such a force as distin- 
guishes a felonious riot from a treasonable levying of war.f The principal 
doubt, therefore, in that case was, whether such an unarmed riotous force was 
war, within the meaning of the statute ; and on that point very learned men 
have dijffered ; nor shall I attempt to decide between them, because in this 
one point they all agree. Gentlemen, I beseech you to attend to me here. I 
say, on this point they all agree, that it is the intention of assembling them, 
which forms the guilt of treason. I will give you the words of high autho- 
rity, the learned Foster ; whose private opinions will, no doubt, be pressed 
upon you as a doctrine and law, and which, if taken together, as all opinions 
ought to be, and not extracted in smuggled sentences to serve a shallow trick, 
I am contented to consider as authority. 

" That great judge, immediately after supporting the case of Damaree, as a 
levying war within the statute, against the opinion of Hale, in a similar case, 
viz. the destruction of bawdy-houses, \ which happened in his time, says, 'The 
true criterion therefore seems to be — Quo animo did the parties assemble? — 
with what intention did they meet ?' 

" On that issue, then, by which I am supported by the whole body of the 
criminal law of England ; concerning which there are no practical precedents 
of the Courts that clash, nor even abstract opinions of the closet that differ, I 
come forth with boldness to meet the Crown: for even supposing that peace- 
able multitude, — though not hostilely arrayed, — though without one species of 
weapon among them, — though assembled without plot or disguise by a pub- 
lic advertisement, exhorting, nay commanding peace, and inviting the magis- 

* In. this case a mob assembled, for the purpose of destroying all the Protestant 
Dissenting meeting-houses, and actually pulled down two. 8 State Trials, 218. 
Foster, 208. 

t To constitute a treasonable levying of war, there must be an insurrection ; there 
must be force accompanying that insurrection ; and it must be for an object of a general 
nature. Eegina v. Frost, 9 Carrington and Payne, 129. 

X 1 Hale, 132. 



274 THE MODERN OUATOR. 

trates to be present to restore it, if broken^ — though composed of thousands 
who are now standing around you, unimpeached and unreproved, yet who are 
all principals in treason, if such assembly was treason ; supposing, I say, this 
multitude to be nevertheless an army within the statute, still the great ques- 
tion would remain behind, on which the guilt or innocence of the accused 
mast singly depend, and which it is our exclusive province to determine :— 
namely, whether they were assembled by my noble Client, for the traitorous 
purpose charged in the indictment ?^' For war must not only be levied, but 
it must be levied against the King in his realm ; i. e., either directly against his 
person to alter the constitution of the government, of which he is the head, or 
to suppress the laws committed to his execution, hy rebellious force. You 
must find that Lord George Gordon assembled these men with that traitorous 
intention ; you must find not merely a riotous illegal petitioning, — not a 
tumultuous, indecent importunity to influence Parliament, — not the compul- 
sion of motive, from seeing so great a body of people united in sentiment and 
clamorous supplication, — but the absolute, unequivocal compulsion of force, 
from the hostile acts of numbers united in rebellious conspiracy and arms. 

" This is the issue you are to try : for crimes of all denominations consist 
wholly in the purpose of the human will producing the act : Actus 7ion facit 
reum nisi mens sit rea. — The act does not constitute guilt, unless the mind be 
guilty. This is the great text from which the whole moral of penal justice is 
deduced : it stands at the top of the criminal page, throughout all the vohmies 
of our humane and sensible laws, and Lord Chief Justice Coke, whose chapter 
on this crime is the most authoritative and masterly of all his valuable works, 
ends almost every sentence with an emphatical repetition of it. 

" The indictment must charge an open act, because the purpose of the mind, 
which is the object of trial, can only be known by actions ; or, again to use the 
Yv'ords of Foster, who has ably and accurately expressed it, ' the traitorous 
purpose is the treason, the overt act, the means made use of to efiectuate the 
intentions of the heart.' But why should I borrow the language of Foster, 
or of any other man, when the language of the indictment itself is lying before 
our eyes ? What does it say ? Does it directly charge the overt act as in it- 
self constituting the crime? No; it charges that the prisoner ' maliciously 
and traitorously did compass, imagine, and intend to raise and levy war and 
rebellion ayainst the King ; this is the malice prepense of treason ; and that 
to fulfil and bring to effect such traitorous compassings and intentions, he did, 
on the day mentioned in the indictment, actually assemble them, and levy war 
and rebellion against the King. Thus the law, which is made to correct and 
punish the wickedness of the heart, and not the unconscious deeds of the body, 
goes up to the fountain of human agency, and arraigns the lurking mischief 
of the soul, dragging it to light by the evidence of open acts. The hostile 
mind is the crime ; and, therefore, unless the matters that are in evidence 

* There is no doubt that actual violence was not contemplated by those who en- 
couraged the assembly of the people, on the second of June, although they sought to 
obtain the object of their petition by improper intimidation. 



LORD ERSKINE. 275 

before you, do, beyond all doubt or possibility of error, convince you that the 
prisoner is a determined traitor in his hearty he is not guilty. 

" It is the same principle which creates all the various degrees of homicide, 
from that which is excusable, to the malignant guilt of murder. The fact is 
the same in all ; the death of the man is the imputed crime ; but the intention 
makes all the difference ; and he who killed him is pronounced a murderer, — 
a single felon, — or only an unfortunate man, as the circumstances, by which 
his mind is deciphered to the jury, show it to have been cankered by deliberate 
wickedness, or stirred up by sudden passions. 

"Here an immense multitude was,beyondall doubt, assembled on the second 
of June; but whether he that assembled them be guilty of high treason, of a 
high misdemeanour, or only of a breach of the act of King Charles the Second'^' 
against tumultuous petitioning (if such an act still exists), depends wholly 
upon the evidence of his purpose in assembling them, — to be gathered by you, 
and by you alone, from the whole tenor of his conduct; and to be gathered, not 
by inference, or probability, or reasonable presumption, but, in the words of 
the act, proveably ; that is, in the full unerring force of demonstration. You 
are called, upon your oaths, to say, wo^ whether Lord George Gordon assembled 
the multitudes in the place charged in the indictment, — for that is not denied; 
but whether it appears, by the facts produced in evidence for the Crown, 
when confronted with the proofs w^hich we have laid before you, that he 
assembled them in hostile array, and with a hostile mind, to take the laws 
into his own hands by main force, and to dissolve the constitution of the 
government, unless his petition should be listened to by Parliament. 

" That is your exclusive province to determine. The Court can only tell 
you what acts the law, in its general theory, holds to be high treason, on the 
general assumption that such acts proceed from traitorous purposes : but they 
must leave it to your decision, and to yours alone, whether the acts proved 
appear, in the present instance, under all the circumstances, to have arisen 
from the causes which form the essence of this high crime. 

" Gentlemen, you have now heard the law of treason ; first, in the abstract, 
and secondly, as it applies to the general features of the case : and you 
have heard it with as much sincerity as if I had addressed you upon my oath 
from the bench where the Judges sit. I declare to you solemnly, in the 
presence of that great Being at whose bar we must all hereafter appear, that 

* By 13 Car. II., st. 1, c. 5, passed in consequence of the tumults on the opening of 
the memorable Parliament of 1640, it is provided, That no petition to the King or 
either House of Parliament, for any alteration in church or state, shall be signed by 
above twenty persons, unless the matter thereof be approved by three justices of the peace, 
or the major part of the Grand Jury in the county ; and in London by the Lord Mayor, 
Aldermen, and Common Council : nor shall any petition be presented by more than ten 
persons at a time. But under these regulations, it is declared by the Bill of Pights, 
1 W. and M., st. 2, c. 2, that the subject hath a right to petition. Upon the trial of 
Lord George Gordon, the Court of King's Bench declared that they were clearly of 
opinion that the Statute 13 Car. 11. , was not in any degree affected by the Bill of Rights. 
Dougl. 571. 



276 THE XODERX OEATOK, 

I have used no one art of an advocate, but have acted the plain unaffected 
part of a Christian man, instructing the consciences of his fellow- citizens to 
do justice. If I have deceived you on the subject, I am myself deceived ; 
and if I am misled through ignorance, my ignorance is incurable, for I have 
spared no pains to understand it. 

"I am not stiff in opinions ; but before I change any one of those that I 
have given you to-day, I must see some direct monument of justice that 
contradicts them, for the law of England pays no respect to theories, however 
ingenious, or to authors, however wise ; and therefore, unless you hear me 
refuted by a series of direct precedents, and not by vague doctrine, if you 
wish to sleep in peace, follow me. 

" And now the most important part of om' task begins, namely, the appli- 
cation of the evidence to the doctrines I have laid down ; for trial is nothing 
more than the reference of facts to a certain rule of action, and a long reca- 
pitulation of them only serves to distract and perplex the mxcmory, mthout 
enlightening the judgment, unless the great standard principle by which they 
are to be measured is fixed, and rooted in the mind. When that is done 
(which, I am confident, has been done by you), everything worthy of obser- 
vation falls naturally into its place, and the result is safe and certain. 

" Gentlemen, it is already in proof before you (indeed it is now a matter of 
history), that an act of Parliament passed in the session of 1778, for the 
repeal of certain restrictions, which the policy of our ancestors had imposed 
upon the Roman Catholic religion, to prevent its extension, and to render its 
limited toleration harmless ; — restrictions, imposed not because our ancestors 
took upon them to pronounce that faith to be offensive to God, but because it was 
incompatible with good faith to man ; — being utterly inconsistent with alle- 
giance to a Protestant government, from their oaths and obligations, to which 
it gave them not only a release, but a crown of glory, as the reward of 
treachery and treason. 

" It was, indeed, with astonishment, that I heard the Attorney- General stig- 
matise those wise regulations of our patriot ancestors with the title of factious 
and cruel impositions on the consciences and liberties of their fellow-citizens. 
Gentlemen, they Vv'ere, at the time, wise and salutary regulations ; — regu- 
lations to which this country owes its freedom, and his Majesty his crown, — 
a crown which he wears under the strict entail of professing and protecting 
that religion which they were made to repress ; and which I know my noble 
friend at the bar joins with me, and with all good men, in wishing that he 
and his posterity may wear for ever. 

*' It is not my purpose to recall to your minds the fatal effects which bigotry 
has, in former days, produced in this island. I will not follow the example 
the Crown has set me, by making an attack upon your passions, on subjects 
foreign to the object before you ; I will not call your attention from^ those 
flames, Idndled by a villanous banditti (which they have thought fit, in 
defiance of evidence, to introduce), by bringing before your eyes the more 
cruel flames, in which the bodies of our expiring, meek, patient, Christian 



LORD EKSKTNE. 277 

fathers were, little more than a century ago, consuming in Smithiield ; I 
will not call up from the graves of martyrs, all the precious holy blood that 
has been spilt in this land, to save its established government and its reformed 
religion from the secret villany and the open force of Papists ; — the cause 
does not stand in need even of such honest arts, and I feel my heart too big 
voluntarily to recite such scenes, Avhen I reflect that some of my own, and my 
best and dearest progenitors, from whom I glory to be descended, ended their 
innocent lives in prisons and in exile, only because they were Protestants. 

" Gentlemen, whether the great lights of science and of commerce, which, 
since those disgraceful times, have illuminated Europe, may, by dispelling 
these shocking jDrejudices, have rendered the Papists of this day as safe and 
trusty subjects as those who conform to the national religion established by 
law, I shall not take upon me to determine. It is wholly unconnected with 
the jDresent inquiry : we are not trying a question either of divinity or civil 
policy ; and I shall, therefore, not enter at all into the motives or merits of 
the act, that produced the Protestant petition to Parliament. It was certainly 
introduced by persons who cannot be named by any good citizen, without 
affection and respect ; * but this 1 will say, without fear of contradiction, that 
it was sudden and unexpected ; that it passed with uncommon precipitation, 
considering the magnitude of the object ; that it underwent no discussion ; 
and that the heads of the church, the constitutional guardians of the national 
religion, were never consulted upon it. Under such circumstances, it is no 
wonder that many sincere Protestants were alarmed ; and they had a right 
to spread their apprehensions. It is the privilege, and the duty, of all the 
subjects of England to watch over their religious and civil liberties, and to 
approach either their representatives or the Throne, with their fears and their 
complaints, — a privilege which has been bought with the dearest blood of 
our ancestors, and which is confirmed to us by law, as our ancient birthright 
and inheritance. 

" Soon after the the repeal of the act, the Protestant Association began, 
and, from small beginnings, extended over England and Scotland. A deed 
of association was signed, hy all legal means to oppose the growth of Popery; 
and which of the advocates for the Crown will stand up, and say, that such 
an union was illegal ? Their union was perfectly constitutional ; there was 
no obligation of secresy ; their transactions were all public ; a committee 
was appointed for regularity and correspondence ; and circular letters were 
sent to all the dignitaries of the church, inviting them to join with them in 
the protection of the national religion. 

" All this happened before Lord George Gordon was a member of, or the 
most distantly connected with it ; for it was not till November, 1779, that the 
London Association made him an offer of their chair, by an unanimous 

* The bill was brought in by Sir George Saville, and supported, amongst others, by 
Mr. Dunning, Mr. Thurlow, and Lord Beauchamp, and passed into an Act without 
any opposition in thg House of Commons, and with very slight opposition in the Lords, 
and the King was known to have been favourable to it. 



278 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

resolution, communicated to him, unsought and unexpected, in a public letter, 
signed by the secretary in the name of the whole body ; and from that day, 
to the day he was committed to the Tower, I will lead him by the hand in 
your view, that you may see there is no blame in him. Though all his 
behaviour was unreserved and public, and though watched by wicked men 
for purposes of vengeance, the Crown has totally failed in giving it such a 
context as can justify, in the mind of any reasonable man, the conclusion it 
seeks to establish. 

"This will fully appear hereafter ; but let us first attend to the evidence on 
the part of the Crown. 

" The first witness to support this prosecution is, 

"William Hay — a bankrupt in fortune he acknowledged himself to be, and 
I am afraid he is a bankrupt in conscience. Such a scene of impudent, 
ridiculous inconsistency, would have utterly destroyed his credibility, in the 
most trifling civil suit ; and I am, therefore, almost ashamed to remind you 
of his evidence, when I reflect that you will never suffer it to glance across 
your minds, on this solemn occasion. 

" This man, whom I may now, without offence or slander, point out to you as 
a dark Popish spy, who attended the meetings of the London Association, to 
pervert their harmless purposes, conscious that the discovery of his character 
would invalidate all his testimony, endeavoured at first to conceal the activity 
of his zeal, by denying that he had seen any of the destructive scenes imputed 
to the Protestants ; yet, almost in the same breath, it came out, by his own 
confession, that there was hardly a place, public or private, where riot had 
erected her standard, in which he had not been ; nor a house, prison, or 
chapel, that was destroyed, to the demolition of which he had not been a 
witness. He was at Newgate, the Fleet, at Langdale's, and at Coleman- 
street ; at the Sardinian ambassador's, and in Great Queen street, Lincoln's 
Inn Fields. "What took him to Coachmakers' Hall ? He went there, as he 
told us, to watch their proceedings, because he expected no good from them ; 
and to justify his prophecy of evil, he said, on his examination by the Crown, 
that, as early as December, he had heard some alarming republican language. 
What language did he remember? — 'Why, that the Lord Advocate of 
Scotland was called only Harry Dundas.' Finding this too ridiculous 
for so grave an occasion, he endeavoured to put some words about the breach 
of the King's coronation oath*" into the prisoner's mouth, as proceeding from 
himself; which it is notorious he read out of an old Scotch book, published 
near a century ago, on the abdication of King James the Second. 

" Attend to his cross examination : he was sure he had seen Lord George 
Gordon at Greenwood's room in January ; but when Mr. Kenyon, who knew 
Lord George had never been there, advised him to recollect himself, he desired 
to consult his notes. First, he is positively sure from his memory, that he 
had seen him there : then he says, he cannot trust his memory without refer- 

* Hay swore that Lord Gordon had declared that the King had broken his coro- 
Jiation oath. 



LORD EHSKINE. 279 

rmg to his papers : — on looking at them, they contradict him ; and he then 
confesses, that he never saw Lord George Gordon at Greenwood's room in 
January, when his note was taken, nor at any other time. But why did he 
take notes ? He said it was, because he foresaw what would happen. How 
fortunate the Crown is, gentlemen, to have such friends to collect evidence by 
anticipation! When did he begin to take notes? He said, on the 21st of 
February, which was ihe first time, he had been alarmed at what he had seen 
and heard, although, not a minute before, he had been reading a note taken 
at Greenwood's room in January^ and had sworn that he had attended their 
meetings, from apprehensions of consequences, as early as December. 

" Mr. Kenyon, who now saw him bewildered in a maze of falsehood, and 
suspecting his notes to have been a villanous fabrication to give the show of 
correctness to his evidence, attacked him with a shrewdness for which he 
was wholly unprepared. You remember the witness had said, that he always 
took notes when he attended any meetings where he expected their delibera- 
tions might be attended with dangerous consequences. ' Give me one in- 
stance,'' says Mr. Kenyon, ' in the luhole course of your life, where you ever took 
notes hefore.' Poor Mr. Hay was thunderstruck ; — the sweat ran down his 
face, and his countenance bespoke despair, — not recollection : ' Sir, I must 
have an instance ; tell me when and where ?' Gentlemen, it was now too 
late ; some instance he was obliged to give, and, as it was evident to every- 
body that he had one still to choose, I think he might have chosen a better. 
He had taken notes at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, six and 
twenty years before. What ! did he apprehend dangerous consequences from 
the deliberations of the grave elders of the Kirk ? Were they levying war 
against the King ? At last, when he is called upon to say to whom he com- 
municated the intelligence he had collected, the spy stood confessed indeed : 
at first he refused to tell, saying he was his friend, and that he was not 
obliged to give him up ; and when forced at last to speak, it came out to be 
Mr. Butler, a gentleman universally known, and who, from what I know of 
him, I may be sure never employed him, or any other spy, because he is a 
man every way respectable, but who certainly is not only a papist, but the 
person who was employed in all their proceedings, to obtain the late indul- 
gences from parliament. He said Mr. Butler was his particular friend, yet 
professed himself ignorant of his religion. I am sure he could not be desired 
to conceal it ; — Mr. Butler makes no secret of his religion ; — it is no reproach 
to any man who lives the life he does ; but Mr. Hay thought it of moment 
to his own credit in the cause, that he himself might be thought a Protestant, 
unconnected with papists, and not a popish spy. 

" So ambitious, indeed, was the miscreant of being useful in this odious 
character, through every stage of the cause, that after staying a little in St. 
George's Fields, he ran home to his own house in St. Dunstan's churchyard, 
and got upon the leads, where he sv/ore he saw the very same man, carrying 
the very same fiag, he had seen in the fields. Gentlemen, whether the peti- 
tioners employed the same standard-man through the whole course of their 



280 THE MODEEN OBATOE,. 

peaceable procession is certainly totally immaterial to the cause, but tl^e circum- 
stance is material to sboYf the wickedness of the man. 'How,' says Mr.Kenyon, 
' do you know that it was the same person you saw in the fields ? Were you 
acquainted with him?' 'No.' 'How then?' 'Why, he looked like a 
brewer's servant.' Lihe a hrewer's servant ! — ' What, were they not all in their 
Sunday's clothes ?' ' Oh ! yes, they were all in their Sunday's clothes.' 
' Was the man with the flag then alone in the dress of his trade ?' ' No.' 
' Then hoY\^ do you know he was a brewer's servant ?' Foor Mr. Hay ! — nothing 
hut siveat and confusion again. At last, after a hesitation, which everybody 
thought would have ended in his running out of court, he said, ' he knew him- 
to be a brewer's servant, because there ivas something particular in the cut of 
his coat, the cut of his breeches, and the cut of his stockings.'' 

" You see. Gentlemen, by what strange means viilany is detected ; perhaps 
he might have escaped from me, but he sunk under that shrewdness and sa- 
gacity, which ability, without long habits, does not provide. Gentlemen, you 
will not, I am sure, forget, whenever you see a man about whose apparel 
there is anything particular, to set him down for a brewer's servant. 

" Mr. Hay afterwards went to the lobby of the House of Commons. What 
took him there ? — He thought himself in danger ; and therefore, says Mr. 
Kenyon, you thrust yourself voluntarily into the very centre of danger. That 
would not do. Then he had a particular friend, whom he knew to be in the 
lobby, and whom he apprehended to be in danger. — ' Sir, Vv^ho was that par- 
ticular friend ? — Out with it : — Give us his name instantly.' All in confusion 
again. Not a word to say for himself ; and the name of this person ivho had 
the honour of Mr. Hafs friendship, ivill probably remain a secret for ever. 

" It may be asked, are these circumstances material ? and the answer is 
obvious : They are material ; because, v/hen you see a witness running into 
every hole and corner of falsehood, and, as fast as he is made to bolt out of 
one, taking cover in another, you will never give credit to what that man 
relates, as to any possible matter which is to affect| the life or reputation of 
a fellow- citizen accused before you. God forbid that you should. I might, 
therefore, get rid of this wretch altogether, without making a single remark 
on that part of his testimony, which bears upon the issue you are trying ; but 
the Grown shall have the full benefit of it all ; — I will defraud it of nothing 
he has said. Notwithstanding all his folly and wickedness, let us for the 
present take it to be true, and see what it amounts to. What is it he states 
to have passed at Coachmakers' Hall ? That Lord George Gordon desired 
the multitude to behave with unanimity and firmness, as the Scotch had done. 
Gentlemen, there is no manner of doubt that the Scotch behaved with una- 
nimity and firmness, in resisting the relaxation of the penal laws against pa- 
pists, and that by that unanimity and firmness they succeeded f^^ but it was 
by the constitutional unanimity and firmness of the great body of the people 
of Scotland, whose example Lord George Gordon recommended, and not by 



* The violent popular opx>ositioii manifested towards the proposed Act extending the 
lloman Catholic llelief Bill to Scotland, caused it to be abandoned. 






LOED EESKINE. 281 

the riots and burning, which they attempted to proye had been committed in 

jCidmburgh m 1778. 

" I will tell you myself, Gentlemen, as one of the people of Scotland, that 
there then existed, and still exist, eighty-five societies of Protestants, who 
have been and still are, uniformly firm in opposing every change in that 
system of laws, established to secure the revolution, and Parliament gave way 
m Scotland to their united voice, and not to the firebrands of the rabble It 
is the duty of Parliament to listen to the voice of the people ;-for they are 
tlie servants of the people ; and when the constitution of church or state is 
believed, whether truly or falsely, to be in danger, I hope there never will be 
wanting men (notwithstanding the proceedings of to-day) to desire the people 
to persevere and be firm. Gentlemen, has the Crown proved that the Pro- 
testant brethren of the London association fired the mass-houses in Scotland 
or acted m rebellious opposition to law, so as to entitle it to wrest the pri' 
soner's expressions into an excitation of rebellion against the state, or of 
violence against the properties of English papists, by setting up their firm- 
ness as an example .> Certainly not. They have not even proved the naked 
fact of such violences, though such proof would have called for no resistance • 
smce to make it bear as rebellious advice to the Protestant Association of 
London, It must have been first shown, that such acts had been perpetrated 
or encouraged by the Protestant societies in the north. 

- Who has dared to say this ? No man.-The rabble in Scotland certainly 
did that which has since been done by the rabble in England, to the dis-race 
and reproach of both countries ; but in neither country was there found one 
man of character or condition, of any description, who abetted such enormities 
nor any man, high or low, of any of the associated Protestants, here or there' 
who were either convicted, tried, or taken on suspicion. 

" As to what this man heard, on the 29th of May, it was nothing more 
than the proposition of going up in a body to St. George's Fields, to consider 
how the petition should be presented, with the same exhortations to firmness 
as before. The resolution made on the motion has been read, and when I 
come to state the evidence on the part of my noble friend, I will show you 
the impossibility of supporting any criminal inference, from what Mr. Hay 
afterwards puts in his mouth in the lobby, even taking it to be true. I wish 
here to be accurate [loolcinsf on a card on ivhich he had taken dozen his ivordi\ ; 
He says : ' Lord George desired them to continue stedfastly to adhere to so good 
a cause as theirs was ;— promised to persevere in it himself, and hoped, though 
there ivas little expectation at present from the House of Commons, that they 
would meet with redress from thew mild and ghacioijs Soyeheign, who, no 
doubt, would recommend it to his ministers to repeal it: This was all he heard, 
and I will show you how this wicked man himself, (if any belief is to be 
given to him,) entirely overturns and brings to the ground the evidence of 
Mr. Bowen,^' on which the Crown rests singly for the proof of words which 

* The Chaplain of the House of Coraraons. 



282 THE MODEEN ORATOE:. 

are more difficult to explain. Gentlemen, was this the language of rebellion ? 
If a multitude were at the gates of the House of Commons, to command and 
insist on a repeal of this law, why encourage their hopes by reminding them 
that they had a mild and gracious sovereign ? If war was levying against 
him, there was no occasion for his mildness and graciousness. If he had said, 
' Be Jinn and persevere, tve shall meet with redress from the PEUDEisrcE of the 
Sovereign,' it p-.ight have borne a different construction ; because, whether 
he was gracious or severe, his prudence might lead him to submit to the 
necessity of the times. The words sworn to were, therefore, perfectly clear 
and unambiguous — ' Persevere in your zeal and supplications, and you will meet 
with redress frorii a mild and gracious King, who ivill recommend it to his Min- 
ister to repeal it.'' Good God ! if they were to wait till the King, whether from 
benevolence or fear, should direct his Minister to influence the proceedings 
of Parliament, how does it square with the charge of instant coercion or in- 
timidation of the House of Commons ? If the multitude were assembled with 
the premeditated design of producing immediate repeal by terror or arms, is 
it possible to suppose that their leader would desire them to be qu.iet, and 
refer them to those qualities of the prince, which, however eminently they 
might belong to him, never could be exerted on subjects in rebellion to his 
authority ? In what a labyrinth of nonsense and contradiction do men in- 
volve themselves, when, forsaking the rules of evidence, they would draw 
conclusions from words in contradiction to language, and in defiance of com- 
mon sense ? 

" The next witness that is called to you by the Crown is, Mr. Metcalf. 
He was not in the lobby, but speaks only to the meeting in Coachmakers' 
Hall, on the 29th of May, and in St. George's Fields. He says, that at the 
former. Lord George reminded them, that the Scotch had succeeded by their 
unanimity — and hoped that no one, who had signed the petition, would be 
ashamed or afraid to show himself in the cause ; that he was ready to go to 
the gallows for it ; that he would not present the petition of a lukewarm 
people ; that he desired them to come to St. George's Fields, distinguished 
with blue cockades, and that they should be marshalled in four divisions. 
Then he speaks to having seen them in the fields, in the order which has 
been described ; and Lord George Gordon in a coach, surrounded with a 
vast concourse of people, with blue ribands, forming like soldiers, but was 
not near enough to hear whether the prisoner spoke to them or not. Such 
is Mr. Metcalf's evidence, — and after the attention you have honoured me 
with, and which I shall have occasion so often to ask again on the same sub- 
ject, I shall trouble you with but one observation, viz., That it cannot, mth- 
out absurdity, be supposed, that if the assembly at Coachmakers' Hall had 
been such conspirators, as they are represented, their doors would have 
been open to strangers, like this witness, to come in to report their pro- 
ceedings. 

" The next witness is Mr. Anstruther, who speaks to the language and 
deportment of the noble prisoner, both at Coachmakers' Hall, on the 29th of 






LORD ERSKINE. 283 

May, and afterwards on the 2nd of June, in the lobby of the House of Com- 
mons. It will be granted to me, I am sure, even by the advocates of the 
Crown, that this gentleman, not only from the clearness and consistency of 
his testimony, but from his rank and character in the world, is infinitely 
more worthy of credit than Mr. Hay, who went before him; and if the 
circumstances of irritation and confusion under which the Rev. Mr. Bowen 
confessed himself to have heard and seen, what he told you he heard and 
saw, I may likewise assert, without any offence to the reverend gentleman, 
and without drawing any parallel between their credits, that where their 
accounts of this transaction differ, the preference is due to the former. Mr. 
Anstruther very properly prefaced his evidence with this declaration : — ' / 
do not mean to speak accwately to words ; it is impossible to recollect them at 
this distance of time.' I believe I have used his very expression, and such 
expression it well became him to use in a case of blood. But words, even if 
they could be accurately remembered, are to be admitted v/ith great reserve 
and caution, when the purpose of the speaker is to be measured by them. 
They are transient and fleeting ; frequently the effect of a sudden transport, 
— easily misunderstood, — and often unconsciously misrepresented. It may 
be the fate of the most innocent language, to appear ambiguous, or even 
malignant, when related in mutilated detached passages, by people to whom 
it is not addressed, and who know nothing of the previous design, either of 
the speaker, or of those to whom he spoke. Mr. Anstruther says, that he 
heard Lord George Gordon desire the petitioners to meet him on the Friday 
following, in St. George's Fields, and that if there were fewer than twenty 
thousand people, he would not present the petition, as it would not be of 
consequence enough ; and that he recommended to them the example of the 
Scotch, who, by their firmness, had carried their point. 

" Gentlemen, — I have already admitted that they did by firmness carry it. 
But has Mr. Anstruther attempted to state any one expression, that fell from 
the prisoner, to justify the positive unerring conclusion, or even the pre- 
sumption, that the firmness of the Scotch Protestants, by which the point 
was carried in Scotland, was the resistance and riots of the rabble ? No, gen- 
tlemen ; he singly states the words, as he heard them in the hall on the 29th, 
and all that he afterwards speaks to in the lobby, repels so harsh and dan- 
gerous a construction. The words sworn to at Coachmakers' HaU are,*' that 
he recommended temperance and firmness.'' Gentlemen, if his motives are to 
be judged by words, for heaven's sake let these words carry their popular 
meaning in language. Is it to be presumed, without proof, that a man 
means one thing, because he says another ? Does the exhortation of temper- 
ance and firmness apply most naturally to the constitutional resistance of 
the Protestants of Scotland, or to the outrages of rufiians who pulled down 
the houses of their neighbours ? Is it possible, with decency, to say in a 
court of justice, that the recommendation of temperance is the excitation to 
villany and frenzy ? But the words, it seems, are to be construed, not from 
their own signification, but from that which follows them, viz., by that the 

X 



284 THE MODERN ORATOK. 

Scotch carried their point. Gentlemen, is it in evidence before yon, that by 
rebellion the Scotch carried their point ; or that the indulgences to Papists were 
not extended to Scotland, because the rabble had opposed their extension ? 
Has the Crown authorised either the court, or its law servants, to tell you so ? 
Or can it be decently maintained, that parliament was so weak or infamous, 
as to yield to a wretched mob of vagabonds at Edinburgh, what it has since 
refused to the earnest prayers^ of a hundred thousand Protestants in Lon- 
don ? No, Gentlemen of the Jury, Parliament was not, I hope, so aban- 
doned. But the Ministers knew that the Protestants of Scotland were, to a 
man, abhorrent of that law ; and though they never held out resistance, if 
Government should be disposed to cram it doAvn their throats by force, yet 
such a violence to the united sentiments of a whole people appeared to be a 
measure so obnoxious, so dangerous, and withal so unreasonable, that it was 
wisely and judiciously dropped, to satisfy the general wishes of the nation, 
and not to avert the vengeance of those low incendiaries, whose misdeeds 
have rather been talked of than proved. 

" Thus, Gentlemen, the exculpation of Lord George's conduct, on the 
29th of May, is sufficiently established by the very evidence, on which the 
Crown asks you to convict him : since, in recommending temperance and firm- 
ness after the example of Scotland, you cannot be justified in pronouncing, 
that he meant more than the firmness of the grave and respectable people 
in that country, to whose constitutional firmness the legislature had before 
acceded, instead of branding it with the title of rebellion ; and who, in my 
mind, deserve thanks from the King, for temperately and firmly resisting 
every innovation, which they conceived to be dangerous to the national 
religion, independently of which his Majesty (without a new limitation by 
Parliament) has no more title to the crown than I have. 

" Such, Gentlemen, is the whole amount of all my noble friend's previous 
communication with the petitioners, whom he afterwards assembled to con- 
sider, how their petition should be presented. This is all, not only that men 
of credit can tell you on the part of the presecution, but all that even the 
worst vagabond who ever appeared in a court — the very scum of the earth — 
thought himself safe in saying, upon oath, on the present occasion. Indeed, 
Gentlemen, when I consider my noble friend's situation, his open, unreserved 
temper, and his warm and animated zeal for a cause which rendered him 
obnoxious to so many wicked men ; speaking daily and publicly to mixed 
multitudes of friends and foes, on a subject which affected his passions, I 
confess, I am astonished that no other expressions, than those in evidence 
before you, have found their way into this court. That they have not found 
their way is surely a most satisfactory proof that there was nothing in his 
heart which even youthful zeal could magnify into guilt, or that want of 
caution could betray. 

" Gentlemen, Mr. Anstruther's evidence, when he speaks of the lobby of 
the House of Commons, is very much to be attended to. He says, ' / saw 
Lord George leaning over the gallery,^ which position, joined with what he 



LORD ERSKINE. 285 

mentioned of his talking with the chaplain, marks the time, and casts a 
strong doubt on Bowen's testimony, which you will find stands, in this only 
material part of it, single and unsupported. ' I then heard him,' continues 
Mr. Anstruther, ' tell them, they had been called a mob, in the House, and 
that peace officers had been sent to disperse them, (peaceable petitioners :) 
but that by steadiness and firmness they might carry their point ; as he had 
no doubt his Majesty, who was a gracious prince, would send to his ministers 
to repeal the act, when he heard his subjects were coming up for miles round, 
and wishing its repeal.' How coming up ? In rebellion and arms to compel 
it ? No ! all is still put on the graciousness of the Sovereign, in listening to 
the unanimous wishes of his people. If the multitude then assembled had 
been brought together to intimidate the House by their firmness, or to coerce 
it by their numbers, it was ridiculous to look forward to the King's influence 
over it, when the collection of future multitudes should induce him to employ 
it. The expressions were therefore quite imambiguous, nor could malice 
itself have suggested another construction of them, were it not for the fact, 
that the House was at that time surrounded, not by the petitioners, whom 
the noble prisoner had assembled, but by a mob who had mixed with them, 
and who, therefore, when addressed by him, were instantly set down as his 
followers. He thought he was addressing the sober members of the Associa- 
tion, who, by steadiness and perseverance, could understand nothing more 
than perseverance in that conduct he had antecedently prescribed, as steadi- 
ness signifies a uniformity, not a change of conduct ; and I defy the Crown to 
find out a single expression, from the day he took the chair at the Associa- 
tion, to the day I am speaking of, that justifies any other construction of 
steadiness and firmness, than that which I put upon it before. 

" What would be the feelings of our venerable ancestors, who framed the 
statute of treasons to prevent their children being drawn into the snares of 
death, unless proveahly convicted by overt acts, if they could hear us disput- 
ing, whether it was treason to desire harmless unarmed men to be firm and 
of good heart, and to trust to the graciousness of their King ? 

" Here Mr. Austruther closes his evidence, which leads me to Mr. Bowen, 
who is the only man — I beseech you. Gentlemen of the Jury, to attend to this 
circumstance — Mr. Bowen is the only man who has attempted, directly or 
indirectly, to say, that Lord George Gordon uttered a syllable to the multi- 
tude in the lobby, concerning the destruction of the mass-houses in Scotland. 
Not one of the Crown's "witnesses, not even the wretched abandoned Hay, who 
was kept, as he said, in the lobby the whole afternoon, from anxiety for his 
pretended friend, has ever glanced at any expression resembling it. They 
all finish mth the expectation which he held out, from a mild and gracious 
Sovereign. Mr. Bowen alone goes on further, and speaks of the successful 
riots of the Scotch : but speaks of them in such a manner, as, so far firom 
conveying the hostile idea, which he seemed sufficiently desirous to convey, 
tends directly to wipe ofi" the dark hints and insinuations which have been 
made to supply the place of proof upon that subject — a subject which should 

x 2 



286 THE MODERN OEATOK. 

not have been touched on, without the fullest support of evidence, and where 
nothing but the most unequivocal evidence ought to have been received. He 
says ''his Lordship began hy bidding them be quiet, peaceable, and steady' — 
not ' steady' alone ; though, if that had been the expression, singly by itself, 
I should not be afraid to meet it ; but, ' Be quiet, peaceable, and steady' 
Gentlemen, I am indiiferent what other expressions of dubious interpretation 
are mixed with these, for you are trying whether my noble friend came to the 
House of Commons with a decidedly hostile mind ; and as I shall, on the re- 
capitulation of our own evidence, trace him in your view without spot or stain 
down to the very moment when the imputed words were spoken, you will 
hardly forsake the whole innocent context of his behaviour, and torture your 
inventions to collect the blackest system of guilt, starting up in a moment, 
without being previously concerted, or afterwards carried into execution. 

*' First, what are the words by which you are to be convinced that the 
Legislature was to be frightened into compliance, and to be coerced if terror 
should fail ? ' Be quiet, peaceable, and steady ; — You are a good people — Yours 
is a good cause: — His Majesty is a gbacious monarch, and when he hears that 
all his people, ten miles round, are collecting, he will send to his Ministers to repeal 
the act' By what rules of construction can such an address to unarmed, 
defenceless men, be tortured into treasonable guilt ? It is impossible to do it 
without pronouncing, even in the total absence of all proof of fraud or deceit 
in the speaker, that quiet signifies tumult and uproar, and that peace signifies 
war and rebellion. 

" I have before observed, that it was most important for you to remember, 
that with this exhortation to quiet and confidence in the King, the evidence of 
all the other witnesses closed ; even Mr. Anstruther, who was a long time 
afterwards in the lobby, heard nothing further : so that if Mr. Eowen had 
been out of the case altogether, what would the amount have been ? "Why 
simply, that Lord George Gordon having assembled an unarmed, inoffensive 
multitude in St. George's Fields, to present a petition to Parliament, and 
finding them becoming tumultuous, to the discontent of Parliament and the 
discredit of the cause, desired them not to give it up, but to continue to show 
their zeal for the legal object in which they were engaged ; to manifest that 
zeal quietly and peaceably, and not to despair of success ; since, though the 
House was not disposed to listen to it, they had a gracious Sovereign, who 
would second the wishes of his people. This is the sum and substance of 
the whole. They were not, even by anyone ambiguous expression, encouraged 
to trust to their numbers, as sufficient to overawe the House, or to their 
strength to compel it, or to the prudence of the state in yielding to necessity- 
but to the indulgence of the King, in compliance with the wishes of his peo- 
ple. Mr. Bowen, however, thinks proper to proceed; and I beg that you will 
attend to the sequel of his evidence. He stands single in all the rest that 
he says, which might entitle me to ask you absolutely to reject it ; but I 
have no objection to your believing every word of it if you can : because, if 
inconsistencies prove anything, they prove that there was nothing of that 
deliberation in the prisoner's expressions which can justify the inference of 



LORD EKSKINE. 287 

guilt. I mean to be correct as to his words [looking at his tvords which he 
had noted down~\. He says, ' That Lord George told the people, that an attempt 
had been made to introduce the hill into Scotland, and that they had no redress 
till the mass-houses luere pulled down. That Lord Wegmouth^" then sent official 
assurances that it should not he extended to them.'' Gentlemen, why is Mr. 
Bowen called by the Crown to tell you this ? The reason is plain : because 
the Crown, conscious that it could make no case of treason from the rest of 
the evidence, in sober judgment of law — aware that it had proved no purpose 
or act of force against the House of Commons, to give countenance to the 
accusation, much less to warrant a conviction, found it necessary to hold up 
the noble prisoner, as the wicked and cruel author of all those calamities, in 
which every man's passions might be supposed to come in to assist his judg- 
ment to decide. They therefore made him speak in enigmas to the multitude : 
not telling them to do mischief in order to succeed, but that hy mischief in 
Scotland success had been obtained. 

" But were the mischiefs themselves, that did happen here, of a sort to 
support such conclusion ? Can any man living, for instance, believe that Lord 
George Gordon could possibly have excited the mob to destroy the house of 
that great and venerable magistrate, who has presided so long in this high tri- 
bunal, that the oldest of us do not remember him with any other impression 
than the awful form and figure of justice: a magistrate, who had always been 
the friend of the Protestant Dissenters, against the ill-timed jealousies of the 
establishment — his countrymen too — and, without adverting to the partiality 
not unjustly imputed to men of that country, a man of whom any country might 
be proud ? No, Gentlemen, it is not credible, that a man of noble birth and 
liberal education (unless agitated by the most implacable personal resentment, 
which is not imputed to the prisoner), could possibly consent to the burning 
of the house of Lord Mansfield. 

" If Mr. Bowen, therefore, had ended here, I can hardly conceive such a 
construction could be decently hazarded, consistent with the testimony of 
the witnesses we have called ; how much less, when, after the dark insinua- 
tions which such expressions might otherwise have been argued to convey, 
the very same person, on whose veracity or memory they are only to be 
believed, and who must be credited or discredited in toto, takes out the sting 
himself, by giving them such an immediate context and conclusion, as 
renders the proposition ridiculous, which his evidence is brought forward to 
establish ; for he says, that Lord George Gordon instantly afterwards 
addressed himself thus : — ' Beware of evil-minded persons who may mix 
among you and do mischief, the blame of which will be imputed to you.'' 

" Gentlemen, if you refiect on the slander, which I told you fell upon the 
Protestants in Scotland by the acts of the rabble there, I am sure you will 
see the words are capable of an easy explanation. But as Mr. Bowen con- 
cluded with telling you, that he heard them in the midst of noise and 
confusion, and as I can only take them from him, I shall not make an attempt to 

* Then Secretary for the Southern Department. 



288 THE MODERN OUATOK. 

collect them into one consistent discourse, so as to give them a decided 
meaning in favour of my client, because I have repeatedly told you, that 
words, imperfectly heard and partially related, cannot be so reconciled. But 
this I will say — that he must be a ruffian and not a lawyer, who would dare 
to tell an English jury, that such ambiguous words, hemmed closely in 
between others not only innocent, but meritorious, are to be adopted to 
constitute guilt ; by rejecting both introduction and sequel, with which they 
are absolutely irreconcilable and inconsistent : for if ambiguous words, when 
coupled with actions, decipher the mind of the actor, so as to establish the 
presumption of guilt, will not such as are plainly innocent and unambiguous 
go as far to repel such presumption ? Is innocence more difficult of proof 
than the most malignant wickedness ? Gentlemen, I see your minds revolt 
at such shocking propositions. I beseech you to forgive me ; I am afraid 
that my zeal has led me to offer observations, which I ought in justice to 
have believed every honest mind would suggest to itself with pain and 
abhorrence, without being illustrated and enforced. 

" I now come more minutely to the evidence on the part of the prisoner. 

" I before told you, that it was not till November 1779, when the Protes- 
tant Association was already fully established, that Lord George Gordon was 
elected president by the unanimous voice of the whole body, unlooked for 
and unsolicited ; and it is surely not an immaterial circumstance, that at the 
very first meeting where his lordship presided, a dutiful and respectful 
petition, the same which was afterwards presented to Parliament, was read 
and approved of; — a petition which, so far from containing anything 
threatening or offensive, conveyed not a very oblique reflection upon the 
behaviour of the people in Scotland : taking notice that as England and that 
country were now one, and as official assurances had been given that the 
law should not pass there, they hoped the peaceable and constitutional de- 
portment of the English Protestants would entitle them to the approbation of 
Parliament. 

" It appears by the evidence of Mr. Erasmus Middle ton,* a very respectable 
clergyman and one of the committee of the Association, that a meeting had 
been held on the 4th of May, at which Lord George was not present ; that 
at that meeting a motion had been made for going up with the petition in a 
body, but which not being regularly put from the chair, no resolution was 
come to upon it ; and that it was likewise agreed on, but in the same irre- 
gular manner, that there should be no other public meeting, previous to the 
presenting the petition ; — that this last resolution occasioned great discon- 
tent, and that Lord George was applied to by a large and respectable 
number of the Association to call another meeting, to consider of the most 
prudent and respectful method of presenting their petition : but it appears 
that, before he complied with their request, he consulted with the committee 
on the propriety of compliance, who all agreeing to it, except the secretary, 

f 
* The fiist -witness called for the Prisoner. 



LORD ERSKINE. 289 

his lordship advertised the meeting, which was afterwards held on the 29th 
of May. The meeting was therefore the act of the whole Association ; and as 
to the original difference between my noble friend and the committee, on the 
expediency of the measure, it is totally immaterial ; since Mr Middleton, who 
was one of the number who diiFered from him on that subject (and whose 
evidence is therefore infinitely more to be relied on), told you, that his whole 
deportment was so clear and unequivocal, as to entitle him to assure you, on 
his most solemn oath, that he in his conscience believed his views were per- 
fectly constitutional and pure. This most respectable clergyman further 
swears, that he attended all the previous meetings of the society, from the 
day the prisoner became president to the day in question, and that, knowing 
they were objects of much jealousy and malice, he watched his behaviour 
with anxiety, lest his zeal should furnish matter for misrepresentation ; 
but that he never heard an expression escape him which marked a disposition 
to violate the duty and subordination of a subject, or which could lead any 
man to believe that his objects were difierent from the avowed and legal 
objects of the Association. We could have examined thousands to the same 
fact, for, as I told you when I began to speak, I was obliged to leave my 
place to disencumber myself from their names. 

"This evidence of Mr. Middleton's, as to the 29th of May, must, I should 
think, convince every man how dangerous and unjust it is, in witnesses, 
however perfect their memories, or however great their veracity, to come 
into a criminal court where a man is standing for his life or death, retailing 
scraps of sentences, which they had heard by thrusting themselves, from 
curiosity, into places where their business did not lead them ; ignorant of the 
views and tempers of both speakers and hearers, attending only to apart, 
and, perhaps innocently, misrepresenting that part, from not having heard 
the whole. 

"The witnesses for the Crown all tell you, that Lord George said he would 
not go up with the petition unless he was attended by 20,000 people who 
had signed it : and there they think proper to stop, as if he had said nothing 
further ; leaving you to say to yourselves, What possible purpose could he 
have in assembling such a multitude, on the very day the House was to 
receive the petition ? Why should he urge it, when the committee had 
before thought it inexpedient ? And why should he refuse to present it, 
unless he was so attended ? Hear what Mr. Middleton says. He tells you, 
that my noble friend informed the petitioners, that if it was decided they 
were not to attend to consider how their petition should be presented, he 
would with the greatest pleasure go up with it alone ; but that, if it was re- 
solved they should attend it in person, he expected twenty thousand at the 
least should meet him in St. George's Fields, for that otherwise the petition 
would be considered as a forgery ; it having been thrown out in the House 
and elsewhere, that the repeal of the bill was not the serious wish of the 
people at large, and that the petition was a mere list of names in parchment, 
and not of men in sentiment. Mr. Middleton added, That Lord George 



290 



THE MODERN OKATOE, 



adverted to the same objections having been made to many other petitions, 
and he therefore expressed an anxiety to show Parhament how many were 
actually interested in its success, which he reasonably thought would be a 
strong inducement to the House to listen to it, The language imputed to 
him falls in most naturally with this purpose : ' I wish Parliament to see who 
and what you are; dress yourselves in your best clothes'' — which Mr. Hay 
(who, I suppose, had been reading the indictment) thought it would be 
better to call 'Akeay TOiiiiSELYES.' He desired that not a stick should be 
seen among them, and that, if anyman insulted another, or was guilty of any 
breach of the peace, he was to be given up to the magistrates. Mr. Attor- 
ney-General, to persuade you that this was all colour and deceit, says, 'How 
was a magistrate to face forty thousand men ? How were offenders in such 
a multitude to be amenable to the civil power? ' What a shameful perversion 
of a plain peaceable purpose ! To be sure, if the multitude had been assem- 
bled to resist the magistrate, offenders could not be secured. But they 
themselves were ordered to apprehend all offenders amongst them, and to 
deliver them up to justice. They themselves were to surrender their fellows 
to civil authority if they offended. 

"But it seems that Lord George ought to have foreseen that so great a 
multitude could not be collected without mischief. Gentlemen, we are not 
trying whether he might or ought to have foreseen mischief, but whether he 
wickedly and traitorously preconcerted and designed it. But if he be an 
object of censure for not foreseeing it, what shall we say to goyehnment, 
that took no step to prevent it, — that issued no proclamation, warning the 
people of the danger and illegality of such an assembly ? If a peaceable 
multitude, with a petition in their hands, be an army, — and if the noise and 
confusion inseparable from numbers, though without violence or the purpose 
of violence, constitute war, — what shall be said of that goveeistment, which 
remained from Tuesday to Friday, knowing that an army was collecting to 
levy war by public advertisement, yet had not a single soldier, — no, nor even 
a constable, to protect the state ? 

" Gentlemen, I come forth to do that for Government, which its own servant, 
the Attorney- General, has not done, — I come forth to rescue it from the 
eternal infamy which Avould fall upon its head, if the language of its own 
advocate Vv-^ere to be believed. But Government has an imanswerable defence. 
It neither did nor could possibly enter into the head of any man in authority 
to prophesy — human wisdom could not divine, that wicked and desperate 
men, taking advantage of the occasion, which, perhaps, an imprudent zeal for 
religion had produced, would dishonour tlie cause of all religions, by the dis- 
graceful acts which followed. 

" Why, then, is it to be said that Lord George Gordon is a traitor, who, 
without proof of any hostile purpose to the government of his country, only 
did not foresee, what nobody else foresaw, — what those people, whose business 
it is to foresee every danger that threatens the state, and to avert it by the 
interference of magistracy, though they could not but read the advertisement, 
neither did nor could possibly apprehend ? 



LORD ERSKINE. 291 

" How are these observations attempted to be answered? Only by asserting, 
without evidence, or even reasonable argument, that all this was colour and 
deceit. Gentlemen, I again say, that it is scandalous and reproachful, and 
not to be justified by any duty, which can possibly belong to an advocate at 
the bar of an English court of justice, to declaim, without any proof, or at- 
tempt of proof, that all a man's expressions, however peaceable, however 
quiet, however constitutional, however loyal, are all fraud and villany. Look, 
Gentlemen, to the issues of life, which I before called the evidence of Heaven : 
I call them so still. Truly may I call them so, when, out of a book compiled 
by the Crown from the petition in the House of Commons, and containing 
the names of all who signed it, and which was printed in order to prevent 
any of that number being summoned upon the jury to try this indictment, 
not one C7iminal, or even a suspected, name is to he found amongst this defamed 
host of petitioners. 

" After this. Gentlemen, I think the Crown ought, in decency, to be silent. 
I see the eifect this circumstance has upon you, and I know I am warranted 
in my assertion of the fact. If I am not, .why did not the Attorney- General 
produce the record of some convictions, and compare it with the list ? I 
thank them, therefore, for the precious compilation, which, though they did 
not produce, they cannot stand up and deny. 

" Solomon says, ' Oh that mine adversary ivould write a hook .'' So say I. My 
adversary has written a book, and out of it I am entitled to pronounce, that 
it cannot again be decently asserted, that Lord George Gordon, in exhorting 
an innocent and unimxpeached multitude to be peaceable and quiet, was excit- 
ing them to violence against the state. 

" What is the evidence, then, on which this connexion with the mob is to 
be proved ? Only that they had hlue cochades.'^^ Are you or am I answerable 
for every man who wears a blue cockade ? If a man commits murder in my 
livery, or in yours, without command, counsel, or consent, is the murder 
ours? In all cumulative, constructive treasons, you are to judge from the 
tenor of a man's behaviour, not from crooked and disjointed parts of it. 
Nemo repente fuit turpissimus. No man can possibly be guilty of this crime 
by a sudden impulse of the mind, as he may of some others ; and, certainly, 
Lord George Gordon stands upon the evidence at Coachmakers' Hall as pure 
and white as snow. He stands so upon the evidence of a man who had 
differed with him as to the expediency of his conduct, yet who swears, that, 
from the time he took the chair till the period which is the subject of in- 
quiry, there was no blame in him. 

*' You, therefore, are bound as Christian men to believe, that, when he 
came to St. George's Fields that morning, he did not come there with the 
hostile purpose of repealing a law by rebellion. 

* The members of the Association, at the meeting in St. George's Fields, were dis- 
tinguished by wearing blue cockades on which were inscribed the words, "No 
Popei7 !" 



292 THE MODERN ORATOE. 

" But still it seems all his behaviour at Coachmakers' Hall was colour and 
deceit. Let us see, therefore, whether this body of men, when assembled, 
answered the description of that which I have stated to be the purpose of 
him who assembled them. Were they a multitude arrayed for terror or 
force ? On the contrary, you have heard, upon the evidence of men whose 
veracity is not to be impeached, that they were sober, decent, quiet, peace- 
able tradesmen ; — that they were all of the better sort ; — all well-dressed 
and well-behaved ; — and that there was not a man among them who had 
any one weapon, offensive or defensive. Sir Philip Jennings Gierke "^ tells 
you, he went into the Fields ; that he drove through them, talked to many 
individuals among them, who all told him that it was not their wish to per- 
secute the Papists, but that they were alarmed at the progress of their 
religion from their schools. Sir Philip further told you, that he never saw a 
more peaceable multitude in his life ; and it appears upon the oaths of all 
who were present,! that Lord George Gordon went round among them, de- 
siring peace and quietness. 

"Mark his conduct when he heard from Mr. Evans, J that a low riotous 
set of people were assembled in Palace Yard. Mr. Evans, being a member 
of the Protestant Association, and being desirous that nothing bad might 
happen from the assembly, went in his carriage with Mr. Spinage to St. 
George's Fields, to inform Lord George that there were such people assem- 
bled (probably Papists) who were determined to do mischief. The moment 
he told him of what he heard, whatever his original plan might have been, 
he instantly changed it on seeing the impropriety of it. ' Do you intend,' 
said Mr. Evans, ' to carry up all these men with the petition to the House of 
Commons ?' ' Oh no ! no ! not by any means ; I do not mean to carry them 
all up.' ' "Will you give me leave,' said Mr. Evans, ' to go round to the 
different divisions, and tell the people it is not your lordship's purpose ?' 
He answered, ' By all means.' And Mr. Evans accordingly went, but it was 
impossible to guide such a number of people, peaceable as they were. They 
were all desirous to go forward ; and Lord George was at last obliged to 
leave the Fields, exhausted with heat and fatigue, beseeching them to be 

* This gentleman, in giving evidence on behalf of the prisoner, deposed to the 
peaceable behaviour of the members of the Association, who formed the original pro- 
cession to carry up the petition, and whom he distinguished from the mob which 
afterwards assembled tumultuously about the House of Commons. 

t Sir James Lowther, another of the prisoner's witnesses, proved that Lord George 
Gordon and Sir Philip Jennings Gierke accompanied him in his carriage from the 
House, and the former entreated the multitudes collected to disperse quietly to their 
homes. 

X A surgeon, who also was examined for the defence, and deposed that he saw Lord 
George Gordon in the midst of one of the companies in St. George's Fields, and that 
it appeared his wish, at that time, from his conduct and expressions, that, to prevent all 
disorder, he should not be attended by the multitude across Westminster Bridge. This 
gentleman's evidence was confirmed by that of other witnesses. 



LORD ERSKINE, 293 

peaceable and quiet. Mrs. "Whitingham set him down at the House of 
Commons ; and at the very time that he thus left them in perfect harmony 
and good order, it appears, by the evidence of Sir Philip Jennings Gierke, 
that Palace Yard was in an uproar, filled with mischievous boys and the 
lowest dregs of the people. 

" Gentlemen, I have all along told you, that the Crown was aware that 
it had no case of treason, without connecting the noble prisoner with conse- 
quences, which it was in some luck to find advocates to state, without proof 
to support it. I can only speak for myself ; that, small as my chance is (as 
times go), of ever arriving at high office, I would not accept of it on the 
terms of being obliged to produce against a fellow- citizen that which I have 
been witness to this day ; for Mr. Attorney- General perfectly well knew the 
innocent and laudable motive with which the protection was given, that he 
exhibited as an evidence of guilt i'^" yet it was produced to insinuate, that 
Lord George Gordon, knowing himself to be the ruler of those villains, set 
himself up as a saviour from their fury. We called Lord Stormont to ex- 
plain this matter to you, who told you that Lord George Gordon came to 
Buckingham House, and begged to see the King, saying, he might be of 
great use in quelling the riots ; and can there be on earth a greater proof of 
conscious innocence ? for if he had been the wicked mover of them, would 
he have gone to the King to have confessed it, by offering to recall his 
followers from the mischiefs he had provoked .^ No ! But since, notwith- 
standing a public protest issued by himself and the Association, reviling the 
authors of mischief, the Protestant cause was still made the pretext, he 
thought his public exertions might be useful, as they might tend to remove 
the prejudices which wicked men had diffused. The King thought so like- 
wise, and, therefore (as appears by Lord Stormont), refused to see Lord 
George till he had given the test of his loyalty by such exertions. But sure 
I am, our gracious Sovereign meant no trap for innocence, nor ever recom- 
mended it as such to his servants. 

" Lord George's language was simply this : — * The multitude pretended to 
be perpetrating these acts, under the authority of the Protestant petition ; I 
assure your Majesty they are not the Protestant Association, and I shall be 
glad to be of any service in suppressing them.' I say, by God, that man is 
a ruffian, who shall, after this, presume to build upon such honest, artless 
conduct, as an evidence of guilt. Gentlemen, if Lord George Gordon had 
been guilty of high treason (as is assumed to-day) in the face of the whole 
Parliament, how are all its members to defend themselves from the mis- 

* A witness, of the name of Richard Pond, called in support of the prosecution, 
had sworn, that, hearing his house was about to be pulled down, he applied to the 
prisoner for protection, and in consequence received the following document signed 
by him : — " All true friends to Protestants, I hope, will be particular, and do no injury 
to the property of any true Protestant, as I am well assured the proprietor of this 
house is a staunch and worthy friend to the cause. — G. Gordon." 



294 THE MODERN ORATOE. 

prision* of suffering such a person to go at large and to approach his Sove- 
reign? The man who conceals the perpetration of treason, is himself a 
traitor ; but they are all perfectly safe, for nobody thought of treason till 
fears arising from another quarter bewildered their senses. The King, 
therefore, and his servants, very wisely accepted his promise of assistance, 
and he flew with honest zeal to fulfil it. Sir Philip Jennings Gierke tells you, 
that he made use of every expression which it was possible for a man in such 
circumstances to employ. He begged them, for God's sake, to disperse and 
go home ; declared his hope, that the petition would be granted, but that 
rioting was not the way to effect it. Sir Philip said he felt himself bound, 
without being particularly asked, to say everything he could in protection of 
an injured and innocent man, and repeated again, that there was not an art 
which the prisoner could possibly make use of, that he did not zealously 
employ ; but that it was all in vain. ' I began,' says he, ' to tremble for 
myself, when Lord George read the resolution of the House, which was 
hostile to them, and said their petition would not be taken into consideration 
till they were quiet.' But did he say, ' Therefore, go on to hum and destroy T 
On the contrary, he helped to pen that motion, and read it to the multitude, 
as one which he himself had approved. After this he went into the coach with 
Sheriff Pugh, in the city ; and there it was, in the presence of the very 
magistrate, whem he was assisting to keep the peace, that he puhlicly signed 
the protection which has been read in evidence against him ; although Mr. 
Fisher, who now stands in my presence, confessed, in the Privy Council, that 
he himself had granted similar protections to various people — yet he was 
dismissed, as having done nothing hut his duty. 

" This is the plain and simple truth ; and for this just obedience to his 
Majesty's request, do the King's servants come to-day into his court, where 
he is supposed in person to sit, to turn that obedience into the crime of high 
treason, and to ask you to put him to death for it. 

" Gentlemen, you have now heard, upon the solemn oaths of honest, disin- 
terested men, a faithful history of the conduct of Lord George Gordon, from 
the day that he became a member of the Protestant Association, to the day 
that he was committed a prisoner to the Tower. And I have no doubt, from 
the attention with which I have been honoured from the beginning, that you 
have still kept in your minds the principles to which I entreated you would 
apply it, and that you have measured it by that standard. 

" You have, therefore, only to look back to the whole of it together ; to 
reflect on all you have heard concerning him ; to trace him in your recol- 
lection, through every part of the transaction ; and, considering it with one 
manly liberal view, to ask your own honest hearts, whether you can say that 
this noble and unfortunate youth is a wicked and deliberate traitor, who 

t Misprision of treason consists in the bare knowledge and concealment of treason, 
■without any degree of assent thereto, for any assent makes the party a principal 
traitor. — Blm;kstone, Comm. iv. 120, 



LORD EESKINE. 295 

deserves by your verdict to suffer a shameful and ignominious death, which 
will stain the ancient honours of his house for ever. 

" The crime which the Crown would have fixed upon him is, that he assem- 
bled the Protestant Association round the House of Commons, not merely 
to influence and persuade Parliament by the earnestness of their supplica- 
tions, but actually to coerce it by hostile rebellious force ; that finding him- 
self disappointed in the success of that coercion, he afterwards incited his 
followers to abolish the legal indulgences to Papists, which the object of the 
petition was to repeal, by the burning of their houses of worship, and the 
destruction of their property, which ended at last in a general attack on the 
property of all orders of men, religious and civil, on the public treasures of 
the nation, and on the very being of the government.* 

" To support a charge of so atrocious and unnatural a complexion, the 
laws of the most arbitrary nations would require the most incontrovertible 
proof. Either the villain must have been taken in the overt act of wicked- 
ness, or, if he worked in secret upon others, his guilt must have been brought 
out by the discovery of a conspiracy, or by the consistent tenor of crimi- 
nality ; the very worst inquisitor that ever dealt in blood would vindicate the 
torture, by plausibility at least, and by the semblance of truth. 

" What evidence, then, will a jury of Englishmen expect from the servants 
of the Crown of England, before they deliver up a brother accused before 
them, to ignominy and death ? ^Vhat proof will their consciences require ? 
What will their plain and manly understandings accept of ? What does the 
immemorial custom of their fathers, and the written law of this land, warrant 
them in demanding ? Nothing less, in any case of blood, than the clearest 
and most unequivocal conviction of guilt. But in this case the act has not 
even trusted to the humanity and justice of our general law, but has said, in 
plain, rough, expressive terms — proveaUy — that is, says Lord Coke, not upon 
conjectural presumptions, or inferences, or strains of wit, but upon direct and 
plain proof. 'For the King, Lords, and Commons,' continues that great 
lawyer, 'did not use the wordjoro5a5^y, for then a common argument might 
have served ; but proveably, which signifies the highest force of demonstra- 
tion.' And what evidence, Gentlemen of the Jury, does the Crown offer to 
you in compliance with these sound and sacred doctrines of justice ? A few 
broken, interrupted, disjointed words, without context or connexion — uttered 
by the speaker in agitation and heat — heard, by those who relate them to you, 
in the midst of tumult and confusion — and even those words, mutilated as 
they are, in direct opposition to, and inconsistent with, repeated and earnest 
declarations delivered at the very same time and on the very same occasion, 
related to you by a much greater number of persons, and absolutely incompat- 
ible with the whole tenor of his conduct. ^Vhich of us all, Gentlemen, 
would be safe, standing at the bar of God or man, if we were not to be judged 

* At the time of the interference of the military, the mob had attacked the Pay 
Office, and were attempting to break into the Bank ; and, to aid the work of the incen- 
diaries, a large party had been sent to cut the pipes of the New River. 



296 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

by the regular current of our lives and conversations, but by detached and 
unguarded expressions, picked out by malice, and recorded, without context 
or circumstances, against us ? Yet such is the only evidence, on which the 
Crown asks you to dip your hands, and to stain your consciences, in the inno- 
cent blood of the noble and unfortunate youth who stands before you — on 
the single evidence of-the words you have heard from their witnesses, (for of 
what but words have you heard ?) — which, even if they had stood uncontro- 
verted by the proofs that have swallowed them up, or unexplained by circum- 
stances which destroy their malignity, could not, at the very worst, amount in 
law to more than a breach of the act against tumultuous petitioning (if such an 
act still exists) ; since the worst malice of his enemies has not been able to bring 
up one single witness to say, that he ever directed, countenanced, or approved 
rebellious force against the legislature of this country. It is, therefore, a 
matter of astonishment to me, that men can keep the natural colour in their 
cheeks, when they ask for human life, even on the Crown's original case, 
though the prisoner had made no defence. But will they still continue to 
ask for it after what they have heard ? I will just remind the Solicitor-Gene- 
ral, before he begins his reply, what matter he has to encounter. He has to 
encounter this : — That the going up in a body was not even originated by 
Lord George, but by others in his absence — that when proposed by him 
officially as Chairman, it was adopted by the lohole Association, and conse- 
quently was their act as much as his — that it was adopted, not in a conclave, 
but with open doors, and the resolution published to all the world — that it was 
known of course to the ministers and magistrates of the country, who did not 
even signify to him, or to any body else, its illegality or danger — that decency 
and peace were enjoined and commanded — that the regularity of the proces- 
sion, and those badges of distinction, which are now cruelly turned into the 
charge of an hostile array against him, were expressly and publicly directed 
for the preservation of peace and the prevention of tumult — that while the 
House was deliberating, he repeatedly entreated them to behave with decency 
and peace, and to retire to their houses ; though he knew not that he was 
speaking to the enemies of his cause — that when they at last dispersed, no 
man thought or imagined that treason had been committed — that he retired 
to bed, where he lay unconscious that ruffians were ruining him, by their 
disorders in the night — that on Monday he published an advertisement, re- 
viling the authors of the riots : and, as the Protestant cause had been wickedly 
made the pretext for them, solemnly enjoined all who wished well to it to be 
obedient to the laws (nor has the Crown even attempted to prove that he 
had either given, or that he afterwards gave, secret instructions in opposition 
to that public admonition) — that he afterwards begged an audience to receive 
the King's commands — that he waited on the Ministers — that he attended 
his duty in Parliament — and, when the multitude (amongst whom there was 
not a man of the associated Protestants) again assembled on the Tuesday, 
under pretence of the Protestant cause, he offered his services, and read 
a resolution of the House to them, accompanied with every expostulation 



LOED ERSKINE. 297 

which a zeal for peace could possibly inspire — that he afterwards, in pursuance 
of the King's direction, attended the magistrates in their duty ; honestly and 
honourably exerting all his powers to quell the fury of the multitude ; a conduct 
which, to the dishonour of the Crown, has been scandalously turned against 
him, by criminating him mth protections granted publicly in the coach of the 
Sheriff of London, whom he was assisting in his oiEce of magistracy ; although 
protections of a similar nature Avere, to the knowledge of the whole Privy 
Council, granted by Mr. Fisher himself, who now stands in my presence un- 
accused and unreproved, but who, if the Crown that summoned him durst 
have called him, would have dispersed to their confusion the slightest impu- 
tation of guilt. 

" What, then, has produced this trial for high treason ; or given it, when 
produced, the seriousness and solemnity it wears ? what, but the inversion 
of all justice, by judging from consequences, instead of from causes and designs ? 
what, but the artful manner in which the Crown has endeavoured to blend 
the petitioning in a body, and the zeal with which an animated disposition 
conducted it, with the melancholy crimes that followed ? crimes, which the 
shameful indolence of our magistrates — which the total extinction of all police 
and government suffered to be committed in broad day, and in the delirium 
of drunkenness, by an unarmed banditti, without a head — without plan or 
object — and without a refuge from the instant gripe of justice : a banditti, 
with whom the associated Protestants, and their President, had no manner 
of connexion, and whose cause they overturned, dishonoured, and ruined. 

" How unchristian, then, is it to attempt, without evidence, to infect the 
imaginations of men who are sworn dispassionately and disinterestedly to try 
the trivial offence of assembling a multitude with a petition to repeal a law 
(which has happened so often in all our memories), by blending it with the 
fatal catastrophe, on which every man's mind may be supposed to retain some 
degree of irritation ? O fie ! O fie ! Is the intellectual seat of justice to be thus 
impiously shaken? Are your benevolent propensities to be thus disappointed 
and abused ? Do they wish you, while you are listening to the evidence, 
to connect it with unforeseen consequences, in spite of reason and truth ? Is 
it their object to hang the millstone of prejudice around his innocent neck to 
sink him ? If there be such men, may Heaven forgive them for the attempt, 
and inspire you with fortitude and wisdom, to discharge your duty with calm, 
steady, and reflecting minds. 

" Gentlemen, I have no manner of doubt that you will. I am sure you 
cannot but see, notwithstanding my great inability, increased by a perturba- 
tion of mind (arising, thank God ! from no dishonest cause), that there has 
been not only no evidence on the part of the Cro\vn, to fix the guilt of the 
late commotions upon the prisoner, but that, on the contrary, we have been 
able to resist the probability, I might almost say the possibility, of the charge, 
not only by living witnesses, whom we only ceased to call because the trial 
would never have ended, but by the evidence of all the blood that has paid the 
forfeit of that guilt already ; an evidence that I will take upon me to say is 



298 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

the strongest, and most unanswerable, which the combination of natural events 
ever brought together since the beginning of the world for the deliverance of 
the oppressed: since in the late numerous trials for acts of violence and depre- 
dation, though conducted by the ablest servants of the CroAvn, with a laudable 
eye to the investigation of the subject which now engages us, no one fact 
appeared, which showed any plan, any object, any leader ; since, out of forty- 
four thousand persons, who signed the petition of the Protestants, not one 
was to be found among those who were convicted, tried, or even apprehended 
on suspicion ; and since, out of all the felons who were let loose from prisons, 
and who assisted in the destruction of our property, not a single wretch was 
to be found, who could even attempt to save his own life by the plausible 
promise of giving evidence to-day. 

"What can overturn such a proof as this ? Surely a good man might, 
without superstition, believe, that such a union of events was something 
more than natural, and that a Divine Providence was watchful for the pro- 
tection of innocence and truth. 

" I may now, therefore, relieve you from the pain of hearing me any longer, 
and be myself relieved from speaking on a subject which agitates and distresses 
me. Since Lord Gorge Gordon stands clear of every hostile act or purpose 
against the Legislature of his country, or the properties of his fellow-sub- 
jects — since the whole tenor of his conduct repels the belief of the traitorous 
intention charged by the indictment — my task is finished. I shall make no 
address to your passions — I will not remind you of the long and rigorous 
imprisonment he has sufiered ; I will not speak to you of his great youth, of 
his illustrious birth, and of his uniformly animated and generous zeal in 
Parliament for the constitution of his country. Such topics might be useful 
in the balance of a doubtful case ; yet even then I should have trusted to the 
honest hearts of Englishmen to have felt them without excitation. At pre- 
sent, the plain and rigid rules of justice and truth are sufficient to entitle me 
to your verdict." 

The Solicitor-General having replied. Lord Mansfield summed up : and the 
Jury, after retiring to consider, returned a verdict of" Not guilty." 



Speech in support of a rule for a new trial of the indictment against the 
Dean of St. Asaph, for publishing a seditious libel, 15th November, 1784. 

In the year 1783, when public attention was dhected to the necessity of 
reform in ParHament, Mr. Jones (afterwards Sir William Jones, one of the 
judges of the Supreme Court at Bengal), composed a tract in furtherance of 
that measure, under the title of " A Dialogue between a Farmer and a Coun- 
try Gentleman, on the Principles of Government," in which he explained, in 
a familiar style, the leading principles of gOA/ernment, and the existing defects 
in the representation of the people in Parliament. Shortly afterwards. Sir 
W. Jones, having married the eldest daughter of the Dean of St. Asaph, 



LORD ERSKINE. *299 

the latter became acquainted with the tract, and, highly approving it, sub- 
mitted it to a committee of gentlemen in Flintshire, who had formed them- 
selves into an association for the promotion of reform. These gentlemen 
were so pleased with the tract as to pass a vote in approbation of it. In con- 
sequence of this, the court party took umbrage, and, violently upbraiding the 
Committee for their open adoption of the pamphlet, publicly branded the dia- 
logue with the most opprobrious epithets ; whereupon the Dean of St. Asaph, 
considering himself implicated, and that the best means of vindicating the 
work and its supporters would be to submit it to public opinion, decided on 
adopting that course ; and, prefixing a short preface explaining his motives, 
issued it to the public. For this publication, which the government de- 
clined to notice, an indictment was preferred against the Dean, by Mr. Fitz- 
maurice, brother of the Marquis of Lansdowne ; and the indictment, having 
been removed by certiorari to the Court of King's Bench, came on for trial 
at the assizes at Shrewsbury, in August, 1784. Mr. Erskine, in his speech 
for the defence, insisted on two great principles: — 1st, That the jury were 
not restricted to finding the mere fact of the publishing, without regard to 
the nature of the matter published, but that they had the right of determin- 
ing whether the matter charged in the indictment as a libel were a libel or 
not ; and, 2ndly, That the intention and motive in the publishing must be 
taken into consideration, and that, if the publication was not with a criminal 
motive, it could not be held as libellous. In summing up the case to the 
jury, Mr. Justice Buller, after denying his right, as judge, to say whether the 
pamphlet were a libel or not, directed them that, if they were satisfied that the 
defendant published the pamphlet in point of fact, they were boimd to return 
a verdict of ' Guilty,' leaving the question as to the libellous nature of the 
publication for the decision of the Court. The jury having brought in a 
verdict of " Guilty of publishing only," a warm discussion took place be* 
tween the Judge and Mr. Erskine as to how it should be recorded ; and the 
verdict ultimately taken was, that the Dean " was guilty of publishing, but 
whether a libel or not they did not find." 

In Michaelmas term following (Nov. 8), Mr. Erskine moved for a new trial, 
on the ground of misdirection of the Judge ; and a rule nisi having been 
granted, the same came on for argument on the 15th of November, when 
Mr. Erskine, in its support, made the following speech, which Mr. Fox re- 
peatedly pronounced to be, in his opinion, the finest argument in the English 
language : — 

"I am now to have the honour to address myself to your lordship in 
support of the rule granted to me by the Court upon Monday last ; which, 
as Mr. Bearcroft has truly said, and seemed to mark the observation with 
peculiar emphasis, is a rule for a new trial. Much of my argument, according 
to his notion, points another way ; whether its direction be true, or its force 
adequate to the object, it is now my business to show. 

" In rising to speak at this time, I feel all the advantage conferred by the 

T 



300 THE MODERN ORATOK. 

reply over those whose arguments are to be answered ; but I feel a disad- 
vantage likewise which must suggest itself to every intelligent mind. In 
following the objections of so many learned persons, offered under different 
arrangements upon a subject so complicated and comprehensive, there is 
much danger of being drawn from that method and order, which can alone 
fasten conviction upon unwilling minds, or drive them from the shelter 
which ingenuity never fails to find in the labyrinth of a desultory discourse. 

" The sense of that danger, and my own inability to struggle against it, led 
me originally^' to deliver to the Court certain written and maturely considered 
propositions, from the establishment of which I resolved not to depart, nor 
to be removed, either in substance or in order, in any stage of the proceed- 
ings, and by which I must therefore this day unquestionably stand or fall. 

" Pursuing this system, I am vulnerable two ways, and in two ways only. 
Either it must be shown that my propositions are not valid in law ; or, 
admitting their validity, that the learned Judge's charge to the Jury at 
Shrewsbury was not repugnant to them : there can be no other possible 
objections to my application for a new trial. My duty to-day is, therefore, 
obvious and simple : it is, first, to re-maintain those propositions ; and then 
to show, that the charge delivered to the Jury at Shrewsbury was founded 
upon the absolute denial and reprobation of them. 

" I begin, therefore, by saying again, in my own original words, that when 
a bill of indictment is found, or an information filed, charging any crime or 
misdemeanour known to the law of England, and the party accused puts 
himself upon the country by pleading the general issue — ^not guilty ; the 
Jury are generally charged with his deliverance from that crime, and not 
SPECIALLY from the/act ov facts, in the commission of which the indictment 
or information charges the crime to consist ; much less from any single fact, 
to the exclusion of others charged upon the same record. 

" Secondly, that no act, Avhich the law in its general theory holds to be 
criminal, constitutes in itself a crime, abstracted from the mischievous inten- 
tion of the actor : and that the intention, even where it becomes a simple 
inference of legal reasons from a fact or facts established, may and ought to 
be collected by the Jury, with the Judge's assistance ; because the act charged, 
though established as a fact in a trial on the general issue, does not necessa- 
rily and unavoidably establish the criminal intention by any abstract conclu- 
sion of law: the establishment of the fact being still no more than full 
evidence of the crime, but not the crime itself; unless the Jury render it so 
themselves, by referring it voluntarily to the Court by special verdict. 

" These two propositions, though worded with cautious precision, and in 
technical language, to prevent the subtlety of legal disputation in opposition 
to the plain understanding of the world, neither do nor were intended to 
convey any other sentiment than this : viz., that in all cases where the law 
either directs or permits a person accused of a crime to throw himself upon a 

* On moving for the rule Nisi. 



LOUD EESKIIS^E. 301 

Jury for deliverance, by pleading generally tliat he is not guilty ; the Jury, 
thus legally appealed to, may deliver him from the accusation by a general 
verdict of acquittal founded (as in common sense it evidently must be) upon 
an investigation as general and comprehensive as the charge itself from which 
it is a general deliverance. 

" Having said this, I freely confess to the Court, that I am much at a loss 
for any further illustration of my subject; because I cannot find any matter 
by which it might be further illustrated, so clear, or so indisputable, either 
in fact or in law, as the very proposition itself which upon this trial has been 
brought into question. Looking back upon the ancient constitution, and 
examining with painful research the original jurisdictions of the country, I 
am utterly at a loss to imagine from what sources these novel limitations of 
the rights of Juries are derived. Even the bar is not yet trained to the dis- 
cipline of maintaining them. My learned friend Mr. Bearcroft * solemnly 
abjures them : — he repeats to-day what he avowed at the trial, and is even 
jealous of the imputation of having meant less than he expressed ; for when 
speaking this morning of the right of the Jury to judge of the whole charge, 
your Lordship corrected his expression, by telling him he meant the poiver, 
and not the 7nght ; he caught instantly at your words, disavowed your expla- 
nation, and, with a consistency which does him honour, declared his adherence 
to his original admission in its full and obvious extent. ' I did not mean,' 
said he, ' merely to acknowledge that the Jury have the power ; for their power 
nobody ever doubted ; and, if a judge was to tell them they had it not, they 
would only have to laugh at him, and coUvihce^im of his error, by finding a 
general verdict which must be recorded : I meant, therefore, to consider it 
as a rights as an important privilege, and of great value to the constitution.' 

" Thus Mr. Bearcroft and I are perfectly agreed ; I never contended for 
more than he has voluntarily conceded. I have now his express authority 
for repeating, m my own former words, that the Jury have not merely the 
power to acquit, upon a view of the whole charge, without control or punish- 
ment, and without the possibility of their acquittal being annulled by any 
other authority ; but that they have a constitutional^ legal right to do it; a right 
Jit to he exercised ; and intended by the wise founders of the government, to 
be a protection to the lives and liberties of Englishmen, against the encroach- 
ments and perversions of authority in the hands of fixed magistrates. 

" But this candid admission on the part of Mr. Bearcroft, though very 
honourable to himself, is of no importance to me ; since, from what has already 
fallen from your Lordship, I am not to expect a ratification of it from the 
Court ; it is therefore my duty to establish it. I feel all the importance of 
my subject, and nothing shall lead me to-day to go out of it. I claim all the 
attention of the Court, and the right to state every authority which apphes 
in my judgment to the argument, without being supposed to introduce them 
for other purposes than my duty to my client and the constitution of my 
country warrants and approves. 

* One of the counsel for the prosecution. 
t2 



302 THE MODERN ORATOR. 

"It is not very usual, in an English court of justice, to be driven back to 
the earliest history and original elements of the constitution, in order to 
establish the first principles which mark and distinguish English law : — they 
are always assumed, and, like axioms in science, are made the foundations of 
reasoning without being proved. Of this sort our ancestors, for many cen- 
turies, must have conceived the right of an English jury to decide upon every 
question which the forms of the law submitted to their final decision ; since, 
though they have immemorially exercised that supreme jurisdiction, we find no 
trace in any of the ancient books of its ever being brought into question. It 
is but as yesterday, when compared with the age of the law itself, that 
judges, unwarranted by any former judgments of theu- predecessors, without 
any new commission from the Crown, or enlargement of judicial authority 
from the legislature, have sought to fasten a limitation upon the rights and 
privileges of jurors, totally unknown in ancient times, and palpably destruc- 
tive of the very end and object of their institution. 

" No fact, my lord, is of more easy demonstration ; for the history and laws 
of a free country lie open — even to vulgar inspection. 

" During the whole Saxon era, and even long after the establishment of the 
Norman government, the whole administration of justice, criminal and civil, 
was in the hands of the people, without the control or intervention of any 
judicial authority, delegated to fixed magistrates by the Crown. The 
tenants of every manor administered civil justice to one another in the 
court-baron of their lord ; and their crimes were judged of in the leet, every 
suitor of the manor giving his voice as a juror, and the steward being only 
the registrar, and not the judge. On appeals from these domestic jurisdictions 
to' the county court, and to the tourn of the sherifi', or in suits and prosecu- 
tions originally commenced in either of them, the sherifl''s authority extended 
no further than to summon the jurors, to compel their attendance, ministerially 
to regulate their proceedings, and to enforce tlieir decisions;* and even 

* The constitution of the county court in the Saxon era is involved in much doubt. 
Hallam, speaking of it (Mid. Ages, ii., 392), says, *' In this assembly, held monthly, or, 
at least, more than once in the year (for there seems some ambiguity, or, perhaps, fluc- 
tuation, as to this point), by the bishop, and the alderman or earl, or, in his absence, 
the sheriff, the oath of allegiance was administered to all freemen, breaches of the 
peace were inquired into, crimes were investigated, and claims were determined. I 
assign all these functions to the county court, upon the supposition, that no other sub- 
sisted during the Saxon times, and that the separation of the sheriff's tourn for criminal 
jurisdiction had not yet taken place ; which, however, I cannot pretend to determine.'' 

It seems very questionable, whether, in the county court, the disputes were submitted 
to juries taken from the same rank in life as the suitors. The authorities tend to show (see 
Hallam, Mid. Ages, ii., 394, and note), that the thanes (the owners of land, or gentry), 
and they alone, to the exclusion of all inferior freemen, were the judges of civil contro- 
versies ; and the questions submitted to them were decided according to the majority of 
voices. The inferior freemen, or ceorls, were called on to attend the meetings, as 
suitors to the court, but only on account of the oath of allegiance which they were to 
take, or other duties which they owed, and not to exercise any judicial power ; " un- 
less we conceive that the disputes of the ceorls were decided by judges of their own 
rank." The evidence of trial by jury during the Anglo-Saxon age is, at most, dubious. 



LORD ERSKINE. 303 

where he was specially empowered by the King's writ of justicies'^' to proceed 
in causes of superior value, no judicial authority was thereby conferred upon 
himself, but only a more enlarged jurisdiction on the jxjkoks, who were to 
try the cause mentioned in the writ. 

" It is true that the sheriff cannot now intermeddle in pleas of the Crown ; 
but with this exception, which brings no restrictions on juries, these jurisdic- 
tions remain untouched at this day : intricacies of property have introduced 
other forms of proceeding, but the constitution is the same. 

" This popular judicature was not confined to particular districts, or to 
inferior suits and misdemeanours, but pervaded the whole legal constitution ; 
for, when the Conqueror, to increase the influence of his crown, erected that 
great superintending court of justice in his own palace, to receive appeals 
criminal and civil from every court in the kingdom, and placed at the head 
of it the capitalis justiciarius totius Anglice,\ of whose original authority the 
chief justice of this court is but a partial and feeble emanation : even that 
great magistrate was in the aula regis merely ministerial ; every one of the 
King's tenants, who owed him service in right of a barony, had a seat and a 
voice in that high tribunal ; and the oflice of justiciar was but to record and 
to enforce their judgments. 

" In the reign of King Edward the First, when this great office was abol- 
ished, and the present courts at Westminster established by a distribution 
of its powers, J the barons preserved that supreme superintending jurisdiction 
which never belonged to the justiciar, but to themselves only as the jurors in 
the King's court ; a jurisdiction which, when nobility, from being territorial 
and feodal, became personal and honorary, was assumed and exercised by the 
peers of England, who, without any delegation of judicial authority from the 
Crown, form to this day the supreme and final court of English law, judging 
in the last resort for the whole kingdom, and sitting upon the lives of the 
peerage, in their ancient and genuine character, as i\ie pares of one another.§ 

" When the courts at Westminster were established in their present forms, 

* The "Writ of Justicies was a writ directed to the sheriff in some special cases, by 
virtue of which he might hold plea of debt in his county court for a large sum, whereas, 
by his ordinary power, he was limited to sums under forty shillings. 

t The King's Court was composed of the Chief Justiciary, the Chancellor, the Con- 
stable, Marshal, Chamberlain, Steward, and Treasurer, with any others whom the King 
might appoint. The Court of Exchequer, in which all revenue matters were transacted, 
formed a branch of this court. The Chief Justiciary was the greatest subject in Eng- 
land : besides presiding in the King's court, and in the Exchequer, he was originally, 
by virtue of his office, the Regent of the kmgdom during the absence of the Sovereign. 

% Though Edward settled the jurisdiction of the several courts, the separation of the 
Exchequer first, and afterwards of the Common Pleas, from the King's Court, took 
place long before. The detachment of the latter had its beginning, in Madox's opinion, 
as early as in the reign of Richard I. ; but it was completely estabhshed by the Magna 
Charta of 17 John, and then first made stationary at Westminster. 

§ During a trial before the House of Peers, every Peer present on the trial is to judge 
both of the law and the fact. Foster, 142. Hence no special verdict can be given on 
the trial of a Peer. 



304 THE MODERN ORATOE. 

and when the civilisation and commerce of the nation had introduced more 
intricate questions of justice, the judicial authority in civil cases could not 
but enlarge its bounds ; the rules of property in a cultivated state of society 
became by degrees beyond the compass of the unlettered multitude ; and in 
certain well-known restrictions undoubtedly fell to the judges ; yet more, 
perhaps, from necessity than by consent, as all judicial proceedings were 
artfully held in the Norman language,"^ to which the people were strangers. 

" Of these changes in judicature, immemorial custom, and the acquiescence 
of the legislature, are the evidence which establish the jurisdiction of the 
Courts on the true principle of English law, and measure the extent of it by 
their ancient practice. 

*' But no such evidence is to be found of the least relinquishment or abridg- 
ment of popular judicature, in cases of cri?nes ; on the contrary, every page 
of our history is filled with the struggles of our ancestors for its preservation. 

" The law of property changes with new objects, and becomes intricate as it 
extends its dominion ; but crimes must ever be of the same easy investigation — 
they consist wholly in intention, and the more they are multiplied by the 
policy of those who govern, the more absolutely the public freedom depends 
upon the people's preserving the entire administration of criminal justice to 
themselves. In a question of property between two private individuals, the 
Crown can have no possible interest in preferring the one to the other ; but 
it may have an interest in crushing both of them together, in defiance of 
every principle of humanity and justice, if they should put themselves forward 
in a contention for public liberty, against a government seeking to emancipate 
itself from the dominion of the laws. No man in the least acquainted with 
the history of nations, or of his own country, can refuse to acknowledge, that 
if the administration of criminal justice were left in the hands of the Crown, 
or its deputies, no greater freedom could possibly exist, than government 
might choose to tolerate from the convenience or policy of the day. 

" My lord, this important truth is no discovery or assertion of mine, but is 
to be found in every book of the law : whether we go up to the most ancient 
authorities, or appeal to the writings of men of our own times, we meet with 
it alike in the most emphatical language. Mr. Justice Blackstone, by no 
means biassed towards democratical government, having in the third volume 
of his Commentaries explained the excellence of the trial by jury in civil 
cases, expresses himself thus (vol. iv. p. 349) : ' But it holds much stronger 
in criminal cases, since, in times of difficulty and danger, more is to be appre- 
hended from the violence and partiality of judges appointed by the Crown, in 
suits between the King and the subject, than in disputes between one indi- 
vidual and another, to settle the boundaries of private property. Our law 
has, therefore, wisely placed this strong and twofold barrier of a present- 
ment and trial by jury, between the liberties of the people and the prerogative 

t All pleadings were, by order of William I., conducted in Norman-French. By act 
36 Edward III., cap. 15 (A.D. 1363), the use of the French language in legal proceed- 
ings M'as abolished. 



LORD ERSKINE. 305 

of the Crown : without this barrier, justices of oyer and ierminer named by 
the Crown might, as in France or in Turkey, imprison, dispatch, or exile, 
any man that was obnoxious to government, by an instant declaration that 
such was their will and pleasure. So that the liberties of England cannot 
but subsist so long as this palladium remains sacred and inviolate, not only 
from all open attacks, which none will be so hardy as to make, but also from 
all secret machinations, which may sap and undermine it.' 

" But this remark, though it derives new force in being adopted by so 
great an authority, was no more original in Mr. Justice Blacks tone than in 
me : the institution and authority of juries is to be found in Bracton, who 
wrote about five hundred years before him. ' The curia and the pares,' says 
he, ' were necessarily the judges in all cases of life, limb, crime, and dis- 
herison of the heir in capite. The King could not decide, for then he would 
have been both prosecutor and judge; nether could his justices, for they 
represent him.' 

" Notwithstanding all this, the learned Judge was pleased to say, at the 
trial, that there was no difference between civil and criminal cases.^ I say, on 
the contrary, independent of these authorities, that there is not, even to vulgar 
observation, the remotest similitude between them. 

" There are four capital distinctions between prosecutions for crimes, and 
civil actions, every one of which deserves consideration. 

" First, in the jurisdiction necessary to found the charge. 

" Secondly, in the manner of the defendant's pleading to it. 

" Thirdly, in the authority of the verdict which discharges him. 

" Fourthly, in the independence and security of the jury from all the con- 
sequences in giving it. 

" As to the first, it is unnecessary to remind your lordships, that, in a civil 
case, the party who conceives himself aggrieved, states his complaint to the 
court — avails himself at his own pleasure of its process — compels an answer 
from the defendant by its authority — or, taking the charge pro confesso against 
him on his default, is entitled to final judgment and execution for his debt, 
without any interposition of a jury. But in criminal cases it is otherwise ; 
the court has no cognisance of them, without leave from the people forming 
a grand inquest. f If a man were to commit a capital offence in the face of 
all the judges of England, their united authority could not put him upon his 

* In his charge to the jury, Mr. Justice Buller had said, " The law acts equally and 
justly, as the pamphlet itself states : it is equal between the prosecutor and defendant : 
and whatever appears upon the record is not for our decision here, but may be the sub- 
ject of future consideration in the court out of which the record comes : and afterwards, 
if either party thinks fit, they have a right to carry it to the dernier resort, and have the 
opinion of the House of Lords upon it ; and therefore that has been the uniform and 
established answer, not only in criminal but civil cases. The law is the same in both, and 
there is not a gentleman round this table who does not hiow that is the constant and uniform 
answer xohich is given in such cases." 

t The intervention of a grand jury is not necessary where the prisoner is committed 
for trial by the coroner. 



306 THE MODEKN OUATOR. 

trial : they could file no complaint against him, even upon the records of the 
supreme criminal court, but could only commit him for safe custody, which 
is equally competent to every common justice of the peace — the grand jury 
alone could arraign him, and in their discretion might likewise finally dis- 
charge him, by throwing out the bill, with the names of all your lordships 
as witnesses on the back of it. If it shall be said, that this exclusive power 
of the grand jury does not extend to lesser misdemeanours, which may be 
prosecuted by information ; I answer, that for that very reason it becomes 
doubly necessary to preserve the power of the other jury which is left. In 
the rules of pleading, there is no distinction between capital and lesser of- 
fences ; and the defendant's plea of not guilty (which universally prevails as the 
legal answer to every information or indictment, as opposed to special pleas 
to the court in civil actions), and the necessity imposed upon the Crown to 
join the general issue, are absolutely decisive of the present question. 

" Every lawyer must admit, that the rules of pleading were originally estab- 
lished to mark and to preserve the distinct jurisdictions of the court and the 
jury, by a separation of the law from the fact, wherever they were intended 
to be separated. A person charged with owing a debt, or having committed 
a trespass, &c., &c., if he could not deny the facts on which the actions were 
founded, was obliged to submit his justification for matter of law by a special 
plea to the court upon the record ; to which plea the plaintiff might demur ,'^ 
and submit the legal merits to the judges. By this arrangement, no power 
was ever given to the Jury, by an issue joined before them, but when a right 
of decision, as comprehensive as the issue, went along with it : if a defendant 
in such civil actions pleaded the general issue instead of a special plea,aiming 
at a general deliverance from the charge, by showing his justification to 
the Jury at the trial ; the court protected its own jurisdiction, by refusing all 
evidence of the facts on which such justification was founded. The extension 
of the general issue beyond its ancient limits, and in deviation from its true 
principle, has introduced some 'confusion into this simple and harmonious 
system ; but the law is substantially the same. No man, at this day, in any 
of those actions where the ancient forms of our jurisprudence are still wisely 
preserved, can possibly get at the opinion of a jury upon any question, not 
intended by the constitution for their decision. In actions of debt, detinue, 
breach of covenant, trespass, or replevin, the defendant can only submit the 
mere fact to the Jury ; the law must be pleaded to the Court : if, dreading 
the opinion of the judges, he conceals his justification under the cover of a 
general plea, in hopes of a more favourable construction of his defence at the 
trial, its very existence can never even come within the knowledge of the 
jurors ; every legal defence must arise out of facts, and the authority of the 
judge is interposed, to prevent their appearing before a tribunal which, in 
such cases, has no competent jurisdiction over them. 

" By imposing this necessity of pleading every legal justification to the 

* 7. e., might allege, that, admitting the facts, the justification set up is not sufiicient 
iti law> which would be a question, for the decision of the Court, and not of the Jury. 



LOKD EKSKINE. 307 

court, and by this exclusion of all evidence on the trial beyond the negation 
of the fact, the courts indisputably intended to establish, and did in fact 
eiFectually secure,the judicial authority over legal questions from all encroach- 
ment or violation ; and it is impossible to find a reason in law, or in common 
sense, why the same boundaries between the fact and the law should not have 
been at the same time extended to criminal cases by the same'rules of plead- 
ing, if the jurisdiction of the Jury had been designed to be limited to the 
fact, as in civil actions. 

" But no such boundary was ever made or attempted ; on the contrary, 
every person, charged with any crime by an indictment or information, has 
been in all times, from the Norman conquest to this hour, not only permitted, 
but even bound, to throw himself upon his country for deliverance, by the 
general plea of ' Not guilty ; ' and may submit his whole defence to the Jury, 
whether it be a negation of the fact, or a justification of it in law ; *' and the 
judge has no authority, as in a civil case, to refuse such evidence at the 
trial, as out of the issue, and as coram non judice ; an authority which in 
common sense he certainly would have, if the Jury had no higher jurisdiction 
in the one case than in the other. The general plea thus sanctioned by im- 
memorial custom, so blends the law and the fact together, as to be inseparable 
but by the voluntary act of the Jury in finding a special verdict : the general 
investigation of the whole charge is therefore before them ; and although the 
defendant admits the fact laid in the information or indictment, he neverthe- 
less, under his general plea, gives evidence of others which are collateral, 
referring them to the judgment of the jury, as a legal excuse or justification, 
and receives from their verdict a complete, general, and conclusive deliver- 
ance, f 

" Mr. Justice Blackstone, in the fourth volume of his Commentaries, page 
339, says, ' The traitorous or felonious intent are the points and very gist of 
the indictment, and must be answered directly by the general negative, ' Not 
guilty ;' and the Jury will take notice of any defensive matter, and give their 
verdict accordingly, as efiectually as if it were specially pleaded.' 

* Special pleas in criminal cases seldom occur in consequence of the great extent of 
evidence which, may be given under the plea of *Not Guilty : ' but exceptions do occur 
in which special pleas are necessary ; as, for instance, the pleas of autrefois acquit, 
autrefois convict, autrefois attaitit, and pardon. So also demurrers may occur in criminal 
cases : but till latterly they have been seldom adopted; as, until the Act 7 Geo. IV. c. 64, 
ss. 20, 21, the defendant might have had the same advantage upon the plea of * Not 
Guilty', or by motion in arrest of judgment, that he could have had upon demurrer: 
but material alteration in this respect was made by that statute. 

t The Jury, however, may bring in a special verdict " setting forth all the circumstances 
of the case, and praying the judgment of the court ; whether, for instance, on the facts 
stated, it be murder, manslaughter, or no crime at all. This is where they dotibf the 
matter of laWj'and therefore choose to leave it to the determination of the court ; though 
they have an unquestionable right of determining upon all the circumstances, and find- 
ing a general verdict if they think proper so to hazard a breach of their oaths ; and if 
their verdict be notoriously wrong, they may be punished, and the verdict set aside by 
attaint at the suit of the King, but not at the suit of the prisoner.''— Blackstone, Comm, 
IV. c. 27. 



308 THE MODEKN ORATOK. 

" This, therefore, says Sir Matthew Hale, in his Pleas of the Crown, page 
258, is, upon all accounts, the most advantageous plea for the defendant : 
' It would be a most unhappy case for the Judge himself, if the prisoner's 
fate depended upon his directions — unhappy also for the prisoner ; for if the 
Judge's opinion must rule the verdict, the trial by jury would be useless.' 

" My lord, the conclusive operation of the verdict when given, and the 
security of the Jury from all consequences in giving it, render the contrast 
between criminal and civil cases striking and complete. No new trial can 
be granted, as in a civil action : your lordships, however you may disapprove 
of the acquittal, have no authority to award one ; for there is no precedent 
of any such upon record ; and the discretion of the Court is circumscribed 
by the law. 

" Neither can the jurors be attainted by the CroWn. In Bushel's case, 
Vaughan's Reports, page 146, that learned and excellent judge expressed 
himself thus : — ' There is no case in all the law, of an attaint * for the King, 
nor any opinion but that of Thyrning's, 10th of Henry IV., title Attaint, 60 
and 64, for which there is no warrant in law, though there be other specious 
authority against it, touched by none that have argued this case.' " 

Lord Mansfield. " To be sure it is so." 

M7\ ErsUne. " Since that is clear, my lord, I shall not trouble the Court 
further upon it. Indeed I have not been able to find any one authority for 
such an attaint, but a dictum in Fitzherbert's Natura Brevium, page 107 ; 
and, on the other hand, the doctrine of Bushel's case is expressly agreed to 
in very modern times : vide Lord Raymond's Reports, vol. i., p. 469. 

" If, then, your lordships reflect but for a moment upon this comparative 
view of criminal and civil cases which I have laid before you, how can it be 
seriously contended, not merely that there is no difference, but that there is 
any the remotest similarity between them ? In the one case, the power of 
accusation begins from the Court ; in the other from the people only ; form- 
ing a grand jury. In the one, the defendant must plead a special justification, 
the merits of which can only be decided by the judges ; in the other, he may 
throw himself for general deliverance upon his country. In the first, the 
Court may award a new trial, if the verdict for the defendant be contrary to 
the evidence or the law ; in the last, it is conclusive and unalterable ; and, 
to crown the whole, the King never had that process of attaint which be- 
longed to the meanest of his subjects. 

" When these things are attentively considered, I might ask those who 
are still disposed to deny the right of the jury to investigate the whole charge, 
whether such a solecism can be conceived to exist in any human govern- 
ment, much less in the most refined and exalted in the world, as that a 
power of supreme judicature should be conferred at random by the blind 
forms of the law, where no right was intended to pass with it ; and which 

* An attaint is a writ to inquire whether a jury of twelve men gave a false verdict 
(Finehf 484), that so the judgment following thereupon may be reversed, and the Jury 
punished, Very few instances of attaints appear later than the sixteenth century. 



LORD ERSKIISE. 309 

was, upon no occasion and under no circumstance, to be exercised ; which, 
though exerted notwithstanding, in every age and in a thousand instances, 
to the confusion and discomfiture of fixed magistracy, should never be 
checked by authority, but should continue on from century to century ; the 
revered guardian of liberty and of life, arresting the arm of the most head- 
strong governments in the worst of times, without any power in the Crown 
or its judges to touch, without its consent, the meanest wretch in the king- 
dom, or even to ask the reason and principle of the verdict which acquits 
him. That such a system should prevail in a country like England, without 
either the original institution or the acquiescing sanction of the Legislature, 
is impossible. Believe me, my lord, no talents can reconcile, no authority 
can sanction, such an absurdity : the common sense of the world revolts 
at it. 

" Having established this important right in the Jury, beyond all possi- 
bility of cavil or controversy, I will now show your lordship that its exist- 
ence is not merely consistent with the theory of the law, but is illustrated 
and confirmed by the universal practice of all judges ; not even excepting 
Mr. Justice Forster himself, whose writings ha.ve been cited in support of the 
contrary opinion. How a man expresses his abstract ideas is but of little 
little importance when an appeal can be made to his plain directions to 
others, and to his own particular conduct : but even none of his expressions, 
when properly considered and understood, militate against my position. 

" In his justly celebrated book on the Criminal Law, page 256, he ex- 
presses himself thus : — ' The construction which the law putteth upon fact 
STATED AKD AGREED OK EOUND by a jury, is in all cases undoubtedly the 
proper province of the Court.' Now, if the adversary is disposed to stop here, 
though the author never intended he should, as is evident from the rest of 
the sentence, yet I am willing to stop with him, and to take it as a substan- 
tive proposition ; for the slightest attention must discover that it is not 
repugnant to anything which I have said. Facts stated and agreed, or facts 
found, by a jury, which amount to the same thing, constitute a special ver- 
dict ; and who ever supposed that the law upon a special verdict was not 
the province of the Court ? Where, in a trial upon a general issue, the 
parties choose to agree upon facts and to state them, or the Jury choose 
voluntarily to find them without drawing the legal conclusion themselves, 
who ever denied that in such instances the Court is to draw it ? That 
Forster meant nothing more than that the Court was to judge of the law, 
when the Jury thus voluntarily prays its assistance by special verdict, is evi- 
dent from his words which foUovf ; for he immediately goes on to say — ' In 
cases of douht and real difficulty, it is therefore commonly recommended to the 
Jury to state facts and circumstances in a special verdict :' but neither here, 
nor in any other part of his works, is it said or insinuated that they are 
hound to do so, but at their own free discretion. Indeed, the very term 
recommended, admits the contrary, and requires no commentary. I am sure 
I shall never dispute the wisdom or expediency of such a recommendation 



310 THE MODERN OKATOK. 

in those cases of doubt, because tbe more I am contending for the existence 
of such an important right, the less it would become me to be the advocate 
of rashness and precipitation in the exercise of it. It is no denial of juris- 
diction to tell the greatest magistrate upon earth to take good counsel in 
cases of real doubt and difficulty. Judges upon trials, whose authority to 
state the law is indisputable, often refer it to be more solemnly argued 
before the Court ; and this Court itself often holds a meeting of the twelve 
judges before it decides on a point upon its own records, of which the others 
have confessedly no cognisance till it comes before them by the writ of error 
of one of the parties. These instances are monuments of wisdom, integrity? 
and discretion; but they do not bear, in the remotest degree, upon jurisdic- 
tion : the sphere of jurisdiction is measured by what may or may not be 
decided by any given tribunal with legal effect, not by the rectitude or error 
of the decision. If the Jury, according to these authorities, may determine 
the whole matter by their verdict, and if the verdict, when given, is not only 
final and unalterable, but must be enforced by the authority of the judges, 
and executed, if resisted, by the whole power of the state — upon what prin- 
ciple of government or reason can it be argued not to be law ? That the 
Jury are in this exact predicament is confessed by Forster ; for he concludes 
with saying, that when the law is clear, the Jury, under the direction of the 
Court, in point of law may, and if they are well advised will, always find a 
general verdict conformably to such directions. 

" This is likewise consistent with my position : if the law be clear, we may 
presume that the Judge states it clearly to the Jury ; and if he does, un- 
doubtedly the Jury, if they are well advised, will find according to such 
directions ; for they ha\e not a capricious discretion to make law at their 
pleasure, but are bound in conscience, as well as judges are, to find it truly ; 
and, generally speaking, the learning of the Judge who presides at the trial 
affords them a safe support and direction. 

" The same practice of judges in stating the law to the Jury, as applied to